I am part of the Wednesday night disaster team. On Wednesday nights, when we aren’t responding to a fire, we hang out, talk Cardinals baseball and wait. Last Wednesday evening things were quiet. We decided to go to dinner at Bruno’s Grill. Just as we sat down, we got called to a home fire in Berkley. Without ordering, we left the restaurant and were on our way. When we arrived at the small one story home, two police cars were parked in the front, and an animal control van was backed into the driveway. As the night descended, we spoke to the resident. He had been at work when he received a call from his roommate that the house was on fire. When he got home, there was nothing he could do. The fire department had already come and gone. Inside, fire had turned the white walls into an unpredictable darkness. The interior of the home was badly damaged; the ceiling was peeling. Fire had destroyed the couch and most of the furniture.
One of my colleagues went inside the home with the resident as he collected the few clothes the fire had not damaged. Pulling out only a couple of shirts, it was obvious he would need more clothes. As they were talking, I walked around the outside to assess the external damage. Fortunately, all the windows were still intact, and the outside was basically ok. When I walked back in, I met the resident with our crew member; I was immediately struck by how worried he appeared. That’s when we learned the older gentleman was renting the home, unfurnished, which meant that the fire damaged every item he owned. He told us he did not have a place to sleep, then, he dropped the bomb. He was recently diagnosed with cancer; he likely would need help with his medications. All of us were stunned and saddened. This hard working man, who refused to let cancer beat him, was now facing yet another terrible challenge. How much could one person take? He obviously had little, was fighting for his life and now had lost all his belongings. Each of us was grateful the Red Cross would lighten his load.
The Red Cross put him up in a hotel and gave him money for food, clothing and medicine if he needed it. I haven’t heard anything more on this man. Fighting cancer will take all his energy. Cases like these are why the American Red Cross also offers mental health service.
I am heartened to know that Red Cross teams are always on standby, ready to respond — even if they are about to sit down for a meal. It is part of the Red Cross mission, to help anyone, no matter the time or circumstances.