Nothing brings out the goodness in most people like a natural disaster. While working as a mandated Emergency Operations Response essential at a Sarasota school shelter, I silently contemplated, "How can I, a library assistant and bibliophile, possibly be of any help in this shelter?"
When our fearless and masterfully competent shelter manager asked who could take the lead while he got some desperately needed sleep, I quickly dropped my pencil deep below the table.
What soon became apparent was that as the disaster unfolded, all of our strongest skills and competencies began to surface to help others. An example of this is when the police officer on duty emerged at 3 a.m. to say that an elderly woman was having a nervous breakdown and the hospitals were filling up. I said that I went through a tough time during Hurricane Charley and perhaps I can sit with her. We took her, her husband and daughter from their room to the cafeteria. After three hours of conversation, she finally recognized her husband and became calm and herself again.
A 17-year-old guest stepped up and spent all of her time registering people and their pets. A gun range operator kicked in his military and leadership skills and took charge as manager for the night.
When the power went out, the volunteer essentials were fanning over 300 pets to keep them comfortable throughout the night. At one point my husband even took off his back brace to share it with the site manager who was in severe pain.
The police, National Guard, staff and many guests all "had each other's backs." Not only did our community become stronger, but I got to know my fellow Sarasota employees in a way that a training event could never do!