Friday, August 27, 2010

Katrina Survivors and Volunteers...5 Years Later

Those of you who know me and I mean really know me, know that for almost 13 years I was a police/EMS/Fire dispatcher and trainer and though the job was filled with many frustrations, everyday that I went to work, I went knowing I was there to help others and save lives. No matter what family problems I had, what work issues there may have been, my heart was for those who called 911.

It is an amazing career, one oft times filled with sadness and anguish, but it is a wonderful fulfilling job and one in which there is no comparison. In many ways, 911 dispatchers are the unsong and unnoticied heroes. While they are usually the first ones to answer the phones and stay on the line until help arrives, they are forgotten when it comes to thanks. You will see police officers and fire fighters on the news, rarely will you see the dispatcher that was there as well. Police officers have foundations that support them should something happen, dispatchers don't...not until 911 Cares came along.

They were there for Katrina and her is what Kevin had to say about the quilts I made:

Along life's way, you meet some extraordinary people. Some make you smile, others weep and some take your breath away. Jean does a little of each. Jean has retired since Katrina but she will always be a dispatcher at heart. She asked us to connect her with people that had lost everything. She would then call that individual or family and ask for their favorite colors. Jean and her nimble fingers then made god knows how many quilts. She would ensure their delivery and start on the next one. Amidst loss and mud, she brought some sense of normality and comfort to so many. God bless you Jean!

Here is a note from Jean:
Five Years After Hurricane Katrina - Jean KesterWhat I learned during the Hurricane Katrina crisis and others that followed in its aftermath is that no matter how small you think your contribution will be, no matter how little you think you have to offer, the people in the midst of the crisis will think it is huge.I couldn't go running off to New Orleans like I had initially wanted to do because my husband and I are raising three grandchildren, so when he suggested I make some quilts for those in need, 911 CARES jumped at the idea.Always having a stack of quilts on hand, I sent a batch out to 911 Cares for distribution and that is when Kevin asked me if I could make a quilt for a dispatcher named Tina in New Orleans and her young daughter Mikhala who was living with family in Texas due to the hurricane.As soon as those were done, Kevin told me the heart wrenching story of Gloria in Pass Christian, Mississippi who was working in a temporary dispatch center when her own home came to rest up against it. So many stories and people that I will never meet and yet they touched my heart and soul and I will always carry them with me because they showed me what true bravery and fortitude are. In the midst of chaos, disaster and losing all they held dear, they continued to stand strong. I remember talking once to Clementine in Bay St. Louis and asking her what she saw as her biggest challenge. To my amazement she didn't complain about the lack of services being provided by the government, she didn't complain about her working conditions or her living quarters, she was thankful her family and friends were safe and they were together.I no longer dispatch as I took an early retirement in 2007 and moved from Arizona to Washington, but I still make quilts when I can for dispatchers and their family members and others who need the comfort and warmth of something that belongs to them. I will continue to 'pay it forward,' and I want others to know that no matter how small you think your contribution is, it can mean the world to someone else going through a tragedy. I continue to sign my quilt cards 'Ranny Jean, the (retired) Quilting Dispatcher and I always add...911 Cares in Aberdeen, Washington where I now live.If it wasn't for a few co-workers, family members and 911 Cares that helped provide batting, fabric, thread and money to mail those quilts off, I may never have gotten started, so always remember even something as small as a spool of thread can make a big difference in the end! Jean didn't ask me to say this but if any of you have supplies like she listed above, write Jean an email and I'm sure she would love to get a box of supplies from you! These people are my heroes and I hope to always be able to pay it forward and help others whenever and wherever I can because that is the 911 Cares way!

If you want to read about the real heroes, go to 911 Cares and read the stories. You will see that even heroes need help!

1 comment:

Margaret said...

Jean , what can I say ? --- May you never run out of time and love.