A Red Cross Volunteer’s experience helping after 9/11

Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 7:47 PM MDT
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - The American Red Cross provides aid to those in immediate need following disasters, and the terror attacks on 9/11 that happened two decades ago was no exception.

One Grand Junction woman, who was based out of Denver at the time, volunteered to help and deployed twice to New York City following the attacks.

The woman’s name is Mary Kay Wray and she along with her husband volunteered to deploy with American Red Cross to New York City the month after the attacks and again that January to help those in need. They were retired and wanted to help in New York City, so they volunteered to deploy for 5 weeks in October of 2001. They worked nights, giving heroes a place to relax and refuel in between shifts.

“We both worked in what is called a RESPA center,” said Red Cross volunteer Mary Kay Wray. “This was an area where the police, fire, & construction workers, anyone who was working at the site of the trade center collapse could come in for 24 hour a day hot meals, could get rest & relaxation. We had a place for hot showers, they could sleep if they had 2-3 hours off.”

The couple enjoyed being able to help others during such a difficult time, that they decided to deploy a second time in January of 2002. For 3 weeks, they worked out of a warehouse in New Jersey packing up supplies such as food, water, and snacks to send to ground zero.

“It was incredible to interact with the people of New York City who were so grateful for the American Red Cross coming & trying to help,” said Mary Kay Wray. “This gave the workers a way to relax & get away from it for a little bit.”

The American Red Cross volunteers work to help alleviate suffering when people are faced with an emergency or disaster, big or small. Whether it’s helping shelter people, providing food, or helping replace clothing. Even providing specialized services such as medically trained volunteers to help in health services. 90% of the Red Cross is volunteer based so they rely on their donations and partnerships.

Red Cross volunteers typically stay in their local communities to respond to local needs. But in large scale disasters, they deploy their volunteers to areas in need.

“It’s a really incredible process to be able to mobilize volunteers to not only make sure we’ve got local volunteers able to meet the local need,” said American Red Cross Western Colorado Executive Director Eric Myers. “But when that need becomes greater than what we have the local resources to, we’re an organization that can scale up at a moment’s notice.”

Mary Kay has been a Red Cross volunteer for 23 years now. Two years ago she was able to go back and see the 9/11 memorial & museum & revisit many of the things she saw before.

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