STORY: Safe and Well Helps Reunite Loved Ones

Written by Guy LePage

New York – No one had heard from “Hector” since before Hurricane Sandy blew ashore. The 76-year-old retired porter promised to call his daughter after the storm. When days passed without a word, she turned to the American Red Cross to help find her dad.

When Red Cross disaster volunteers Diane Swannack and Anne Moore found Hector, he was busily working alongside his apartment building’s superintendent to clean up the flooded basement and lobby. He was still without phone service. Moore suggested he use her Red Cross cell phone to call his daughter and reassure her that he was okay.

“Thank you,” he exclaimed. “You are so wonderful! My God!”

Swannack, a veteran of more than 12 years as a Red Cross volunteer, pursues lost family connections through the Red Cross “Safe and Well” program. On this day, she was mentoring Moore, who is in New York from Greensboro, N.C. on her first disaster assignment. They crisscrossed several New York City boroughs, visiting the last known addresses of relatives and friends who have not been heard from since Hurricane Sandy hit on Oct. 29.

Swanneck recalls the ecstatic relief in the voice of another woman, “Natasha,” who had not heard from her elderly aunt and uncle in Staten Island since the storm. When Swanneck reported they were healthy and safe in a new apartment, Natasha was so overwhelmed that her husband had to get on the line to continue the conversation.

“She was so emotional and so happy that she could not talk,” said Swannack, a volunteer with a Red Cross chapter in Washington. “Her aunt and uncle are from Russia and speak very little English, so she was very worried about them.”
Moore said her first day on the job was special. “My heart is about to burst with deep feelings and emotions,” she said, moved by the day’s experiences. “People are the same everywhere.”

Swannack said she too still loves the overwhelming sense of satisfaction she gets from helping people.
“I still have the same feeling now that I had on my first deployment. But I can control my emotions a little better now”, said Diane with a smile.

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