When Carol Gross entered the Four Corners Casino Gift Shop recently, she wasn’t expecting someone to serve her—she was looking for someone she could serve .
Carol Gross, a mental health professional trained in Red Cross disaster response, meets with residents of Wells, Nevada, at a local grocery store to provide comfort and advice for coping with last week’s earthquake and the continuing aftershocks. (Photo: Stan Rosenzweig/American Red Cross)
Gross is part of a team of Red Cross mental health professionals deployed to Wells, Nevada , following last week’s earthquake. Their mission is to attend to the emotional needs of residents affected by disaster, an integral component of American Red Cross emergency assistance.
With that mission in mind, Gross struck up a conversation with a young mother who was working her second job at the gift shop. They talked about how the emotional aftershocks caused by earthquakes sometimes exceed the physical ones and about the feelings that linger long after fallen debris has been clear ed from offices, homes and streets.
The mother told Gross about the moment when the walls at her primary workplace began shaking and the ceiling fell in around her.
She spoke of her children and their fears that their mother might not be okay and might not be there for them. She told of other workers who were trapped in a spin cycle that seemed to last for a lifetime, although the shaking and destruction actually lasted less than 20 seconds.
When she finished sharing the details of her ordeal, she asked Carol to come to her primary workplace and speak with others who were trying to come to grips with their fears and emotions. Carol agreed, and the next day she met with eight of the woman’s co-workers.
Feelings of Fear and Exhaustion
One such co-worker was J. Roger Olsen, who had been on the second floor of a two-story cinderblock building when the floor started to give out from under him.
“I got into a door way and held on,” he said. “I was surprised a t how long it was and how much the building swayed.”
When the shaking stopped, Olsen looked for a female co-worker who he knew was in the next room. A s he got to her door, “she just ran right over me,” and the two made an adrenaline-charged exit to the street below.
In the days since, both Olsen and his colleague have experience d feelings of fear and exhaustion, exacerbated by lack of sleep. Other employees tol d similar stories, and one man s ai d he has found himself crying on occasion.
Gross listened to the workers, offered further opportunities to meet again, and provided advice on dealing with disaster trauma (both for the workers and their children). As she left, e veryone at the company thanked he r for helping them.
Helping the Healing Process
Following this session, Gross headed over to Stuart’s Grocery and Deli to meet for the second time with a group of locals who gather each morning at Stuart’s for free coffee and camaraderie. S he listened to their fears and concerns, offering tips and tidbits to help move the healing process along.
By noon, Carol had counseled almost 20 local residents who were working through the aftermath of the earthquake. It had been a very productive morning, but there were still many hours to go and many more meetings to attend.
To become trained as an American Red Cross Disaster Relief Volunteer, call your local chapter or visit www.redcross.org.
For more information on general disaster preparedness, visit www.redcross.org/BeRedCrossReady or call 1-800-REDCROSS.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross provides relief to victims of disasters at home and abroad, collects and distributes nearly half of the nation's blood supply, teaches lifesaving skills, and supports military members and families. The American Red Cross, a charity and not a government agency, depends on voluntary contributions of time, money and blood to perform its humanitarian mission.