By Sheridan Becht, Red Cross Volunteer
When Jack returned to his extended stay motel after a long day of shuttling families to theme parks in his taxi specially equipped to handle wheelchairs, he found his neighbors standing in the parking lot watching a small fire in one corner of the motel. He watched as his room, and more than 130 others, gradually succumbed to a raging fire that eventually consumed the entire property.
The following afternoon Jack was sitting in the bleachers of a High School, near Kissimmee, FL. The gym was now a temporary American Red Cross shelter. Watching children play while their parents visited with case workers, Jack was introspective. “I lost a few things, but it was no big deal,” he said. “Life goes on.”
Jack initially didn’t think he needed help from the Red Cross but neighbors convinced him to go to the shelter and register for assistance. Seeing the Red Cross volunteers in action he was touched. “I want to thank the Red Cross with my heart and soul,” he said.
Standing in line and tired from no sleep, one parent was still trying to come to grips with everything that had happened in the last sixteen hours. His family lived in the complex for more than a year and they had lost everything in the fire. His children were still wearing the pajamas they were sleeping in when they were awakened to firefighters pounding on their door. He was thankful to have the Red Cross helping him get back on his feet. “This gives people a little slack. It can’t solve all our problems, but it helps.”
Another resident, a father with his family had called the motel home for nearly four months. The father of five children, ages 19 to seventeen months, was still searching for answers. “My five year old asked me, Daddy where are we going to live? I didn’t know what to tell her,” he said.
Starting over would not be easy. The young father still did not have an answer for his daughter. But in his pocket was a Red Cross client assistance card and voucher for a month’s rent and that was a good start.