The Young Woman

By MaryJane Mudd, American Red Cross

Hurricane Harvey had just ripped through Houston, leaving me shell-shocked. I was serving alongside Red Cross team members to help those who found themselves without homes, cars, food or shelter.

A huge Red Cross shelter has been established at the city’s George R. Brown Convention Center where hundreds – then thousands of people — came through the doors as emergency responders performed rescues and delivered people to safety. As day turned to night and heavy rain pelted the building, I saw her.

A young woman, drenched and frightened, entered the building with a fatigue so great I could almost feel it myself. Her eyes searched the crowded lobby.

“Where is my husband?” she asked, her voice cracking as she became aware of the people around her. “The children and I were rescued, and he was still at the house. Where is my husband?”

She began to cry, quietly and almost resignedly, as I looked down. There, snuggled next to her mother, was a little girl with Down syndrome, soaked to the bone and shivering. The woman also clutched a baby in her arms, his brown eyes assessing the situation with wonder.

“My dog is dead,” said the woman as her crying evolved into sobs. “I know he is. He was in the water, and I couldn’t help him. Where is my husband?” she cried. “Where is my husband?”

Two Red Cross Disaster Mental Health volunteers immediately came over, wrapped her and the children in blankets and gently led them to the registration desk. I choked back the tears as I watched them.

Within mere days of landfall, more than 42,000 evacuees sought shelter at 258 Red Cross and community shelters across Texas. Thousands of volunteers have traveled to Texas from around the country to help. They have assembled cots, served meals and delivered relief supplies. They have comforted the weary and the grief-stricken.

Red Cross Disaster Mental Health volunteers are credentialed mental health professionals who deploy to assist victims with the new reality they are facing. They are supported by lay people and Disaster Health Services volunteers. To become a Disaster Mental Health volunteer, click here.

Some day, when the ravages of Hurricane Harvey are a distant memory and the city is rebuilt through the dedication, compassion and pride shared by Houstonians, I will remember those who came here to help us.

As for me, I will always hope the young woman found her husband.