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Supporting children following Sandy

          I write this from New York where I’ve been deployed as a disaster mental health volunteer with the American Red Cross.

          It’s hard to describe the impact that this storm has had on east coast residents. Thousands of people have lost homes and possessions. They are living without power and they are cold. They don’t want to leave their homes because they can’t secure them, so they are living and sleeping in rooms that are as cold as it is outside, which is close to freezing temperatures.

          I’ve been struck by several things in my time here. I spent a couple days in a community that was hard hit by the storm. Meadowmere Park is a small area, about four by six blocks in size. Many of these folks have lived there their whole lives. Every home there has been damaged. They have no power. One man described his discouragement by saying he felt like an adult who was “back in diapers” again.

          The fire department immediately stepped up to meet the needs in the neighborhood. They have sheltered people there every night, since they have a generator and it’s the only warm place in the area. They are cooking dinners and breakfasts for the residents. They even built a shower for people to use.

          In walking through the area with the fire chief I met families who had lost everything. Or had they? All of them are determined to rebuild their homes and stay in this community surrounded by the neighbors and friends that went through this disaster with them.

          These families show a certain grit and emotional hardiness. They are down, but they sure aren’t out. My initial thought was admiration for the spirit of that community, of New Yorkers. Then I realized it goes far beyond Meadowmere Park, New York, or the northeast. It’s not even the American spirit that is on display.

          It’s the human spirit.

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