When we say... 'Red Cross' is there to help... what we really mean is lots of people who have put their own lives on hold to travel into a sometimes dangerous situation to help complete strangers. Jean Jackson has gone with Red Cross to cover everything from plane crashes to earthquakes, but last week's attack on America presented some new challenges.
Friday September 14th 2001... 4 days after the attack on America. Jean Jackson arrives at the airport, as she has so many times before, to travel to the scene of a disaster as a Red Cross volunteer. But this times is different and in more ways than one.
"Sometimes its hard to get into a disaster effected area. You might have to go further away and then drive into it, but this has been the worst as far as scheduling flights and actually getting there." And because of the nature of the attack, flying created a bit more apprehsion for her and her family.
"We all try to think in our minds what may be next. And when my wife is the distance away from her family and home that she will be and something major, major were to happen-- how would we get back together? How would we communicate?
Did you ever try to talk her out of going somewhere?
"Not really. I have questioned in my mind sometimes. I remember when she was going on a hurricane in the Virgin Islands. When she arrived, the last flight was leaving. I had to sit and wait for that next phone call that everything was ok."
A Red Cross volunteer needs a family who understands them and why thy need to help.
"She's very headstrong, very positive, definitely loves challenges and never meets a stranger." "tomorrow the sun is going to come up and its going to be a whole new day. And with everyone working together... Its going to be a very bright future for this country."
You may think of Red Cross as those people who open shelters in storms, and while they do that and more, there's also a whole group of Red Cross volunteers who are the 'brains behind the operation' so to speak.
"Is this your first time on the subway?"
"Yesterday was my first day."
We caught up with Jean Jackson as she braved the New York subway system trying to get from the city to the headquarters in Brooklyn. What's ahead for today?
"Trying to get my office situated as far as where the volunteers come to sign in. That was a real problem yesterday. Also, getting telephones-- real telephones."
Jean is what Red Cross calls an LDV Coordinator-- that means she helps run the office where 'local disaster volunteers' come to sign up. "Its a lot of coordination in terms of getting the supplies. And people are so wonderful in so far as donating. Its just rounding all that stuff up.
The office Jean is helping to set up in Brooklyn takes each volunteer who comes in off the streets and asks them questions about their physical and mental health, as well as their interests and skills so they can be placed in a job they will be well suited for-- whether it's in the office or out at ground zero. Though she's not assigned there directly... Jean did go to see the reason *why she's here.
"Unbelieveable that something like that could've happened. Just totally unbelievable. It really didn't look real." "I went by one fire station where they had a candle light vigil and all the flowers and the people... It was just totally overwhelming." I asked her if she was surprised by the strength and resilience of people. "No. They are Americans... That's part of it."
That's part of being American and part of working with the American Red Cross. "We all work together. And I truly feel that if something were to happen to us in Alabama.. They would be right on our doorstep helping us just as much."
Jean will helping in New York until September 30th. She said, after that, she will be glad to get home to her grandkids, her daughter, her husband and her puppy dog Buster.