Story: Safe and Well Success

Story by Louis Palm, American Red Cross

During the rescue efforts following Hurricane Isaac in Slidell, Louisiana, an Associated Press photographer captured a picture of an individual being rescued from PalmLake by first responders. The picture, seen in Florida initiated an American Red Cross Safe and Well story with the best possible ending.

Thinking he had seen a picture of his brother who disappeared during Hurricane Katrina Marcus contacted the Associated Press. The Associated Press then contacted the South East Louisiana Chapter of the American Red Cross in New Orleans. There, Melissa Eugene, Public Affairs Communicator asked Safe and Well volunteer, Debbie Kemp from Ann Arbor, Michigan to research the missing man to see if a link was possible.

Debbie tracked the man to an American Red Cross shelter in Slidell, Louisiana where she just missed his departure. A sheriff deputy indicated they provided the individual a ride to his residence. After two days of attempted contact, Debbie was able to meet Larry Baily of Slidell. Together they contacted Marcus. It was determined during the telephone call that Marcus and Larry are in fact not related.

The story could have ended there. But it did not.

Noticing Larry was ill, Debbie arranged for Johnnie Sontag, a family friend, to take Larry to the hospital. As she checked on him during his recovery, Larry shared with Debbie the names and contact information of his estranged family. Starting with the telephone book from Orlando, Florida, Debbie on the second call was able to contact Larry’s ex-wife. 

The family in Florida decided Larry’s daughter Brenda LaFlamme would make the trip to Slidell and reconnect with her father after a sixteen year absence. On September 11, 2012 Debbie met Brenda at the hospital prior to Larry’s release. That night, Larry and Brenda along with Johnnie and Debbie shared dinner together.

Larry will continue his recovery in a medical facility in the vicinity of Slidell. Brenda will continue efforts to enhance the family’s unification.

Their initial meeting went very well. Brenda is relieved her father is still alive and extremely grateful to be reconnected with him through the efforts of the American Red Cross. She stated “This will provide the family the opportunity to try to put the past behind them and move forward.”

As he left the hospital, Larry stated he was very happy to have this chance to reconnect with his family. He thanked the American Red Cross and the particular efforts of Debbie our Safe and Well volunteer. As for Debbie, she said “Making one person happy makes the deployment worthwhile.”

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