Tuesday, September 18, 2001

Relief effort intensifying

By Kristina Goetz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEW YORK — From a hall filled with giant maps of the World Trade Center site, Gary Miller directs 5,900 people.

        It may be the toughest relief effort the American Red Cross has ever undertaken — and Mr. Miller, director of disaster services for the American Red Cross in Cincinnati, is at the helm.

        He is one of only seven people in the country trained to operate a relief effort as large as the World Trade Center disaster.

        "It may turn out to be the largest operations the national American Red Cross has ever worked on,” he said.

        In the Red Cross' Brooklyn headquarters Monday, hundreds of people moved in and out of the building. Deliverymen brought boxes as volunteers stood waiting for instructions.

        One such volunteer was Bob Spratt of Colerain Township, who works with Tri-State Search and Rescue Inc., which has served Greater Cincinnati since 1975.

        “We got here about 4 o'clock this morning,” he said Monday. “We called when it first happened and they suggested we wait a week when other volunteers needed relief.”

        He makes sure food gets to those who are removing debris from ground zero and beds are made available for people who have been evacuated from their homes.

        “We're serving about 100,000 meals a day,” Mr. Miller said. That's with the help of 47 trucks used just for that purpose. The grand total of meals served: 676,084.

        He sent out teams of mental health workers who consoled heartbroken citizens on the street, in airports and in New Jersey where families were evacuated.

        And as Wall Street opened Monday morning, those teams were shoulder to shoulder with traders and other citizens who were allowed in for the first time.

        But this disaster is unlike anything Mr. Miller has seen.

        “We are now in a posture to have to think out of the box,” he said. “We have to think of things that have never been done before.”

        Vince Costello, who also works for the American Red Cross in Cincinnati as international director, is working to make one of those efforts happen.

        Microsoft and Compaq are creating 175 kiosks to be set up in public places around the city so survivors can register to say they are alive.

        The Red Cross will then match those names to those families still looking for missing loved ones. Mr. Costello is coordinating that effort.

        For Cincinnatians who want to help, Mr. Miller said sending money is the best way. The Red Cross is now taking only trained volunteers from out of town.

        But money will help the organization buy supplies locally, which helps keep down costs and boosts the local economy.

        “Are we making a difference?" Mr. Miller asked. “I hope so. I know so. Our job is to lessen the stress for the families and people — any way we can.

        “And we'll do anything it takes.”


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