Letter to the editor- Volunteer is ready to help
South Lake Tahoe
Red Cross hears voices crying, “Why us? Why us? Why me?” Disaster strikes and Red Cross answers.
We trust Red Cross and we want to help too. Monday I let my friend Thelma Di Maria go home. She didn’t want to go and I didn’t want her to go. She came to visit me at Lake Tahoe because she was worn out and needed a rest. She had worked 12 hours a day for the past week at her home Red Cross office, ever since the disasters in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania.
Eighty-year-old Thelma is a Red Cross disaster volunteer. She has worked on hurricanes, floods, fires, earthquakes, tornadoes at places like Florida, Samoa, Texas, North Carolina and close to home in the ’89 earthquake in California, typically on the job in a location 12 hours a day, but no more than 21 days at a time. She enjoys her fellow workers and almost always feels very needed and rewarded.
The past week there was massive coordinating to do at her office, keeping records, answering phones. It seemed as if everyone in the community wanted to help, offering food, clothes, hardhats and gas masks, heavy equipment, money, blood. The right decision had to be made in each case and correct contact made with New York. When Thelma asked about coming to Tahoe for a visit her supervisor could see that she needed relief and said she could take off. Thelma herself felt there was little chance she would be called to New York at such a late date.
We had a wonderful day together on Monday. We took a sack lunch with us and ate at a park by the lake. It was warm and sunny and not overcrowded like earlier in the summer. It was just the relaxation my friend needed. She told me she needed to find a fancy dress for a cruise she planned over New Years and could we go to thrift stores. What luck! We found a brand new Christian Dior original that looked stunning on her for a shamefully small price. Then we drove to the Angora Lakes parking lot and took the half-mile hike to the upper lake. There was scarcely any breeze, the water was as warm as it gets and the sky was deep blue with a few fluffy white clouds. We were almost alone there to enjoy it. After a swim we drove to the store at Fallen Leaf Lake for ice cream. The day was perfect.
When we reached home the answering machine light was blinking. It was Thelma’s supervisor asking her to reply immediately. She was wanted in New York as a Family Disaster Specialist. She was to get a ticket to New York on Delta Airlines by 8 a.m. the next morning, and bring your boots. Delta was donating the $600 round trip flight and she would have to start her six-hour auto trip from Lake Tahoe to home right away.
“What does a Family Disaster Specialist do?” I asked.
“Assess the need and determine how Red Cross can help,” she answered.
I had one more question, “Why boots?”
“Because the New York Trade Center will be like Mount St. Helens, full of ash and rubble, a horrible gooey mess.” Her face sagged as she visualized her destination.
Of course she would go. As usual, she would not know about accommodations until she got there, but as usual, she was glad to be part of the Red Cross answer to the distress call, “Why me?”
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This past year has been a rollercoaster for the Lake Tahoe region. As the coronavirus pandemic dragged on, undeterred visitors continued to flock to the area.