I’m so glad to hear from friends, with or without pets, in the areas most horribly affected by Hurricane Sandy. That silence is the worst part, waiting for them to make some sort of contact. Despite my love/hate relationship with social media this is one time I breathe a sigh of relief to see a name and a message in my Facebook or Twitter feed from someone I know was directly in the path of destruction, and also from others I didn’t realize were without power or were flooded.
But my anguish at waiting is nothing compared to what they’ve endured, and seeing images of whole neighborhoods destroyed I can’t imagine the overwhelming feeling of looking at a disaster in your home or community and beginning the process of cleaning it all up. Just looking at the photos of water rushing into the subway tunnels and underpasses and imagining how many people might have been trapped there without the stern and insistent warnings and the subsequent subway and transportation closings gives me chills and brings home how close those people were to an unimaginable tragedy.
Helping animals and people
Remembering our cleanup here in Carnegie after Hurricane Ivan in September 2004, while many people have lost all or much of their possessions and drives for food and clothing are greatly appreciated, what people and assistance organizations need at this time is cash. They need to purchase food and goods in stores that have no power to run credit card machines, gas for cars, clean socks and other everyday things—no matter how well you prepare you never have everything. They also need to purchase materials to begin cleaning and rebuilding, bottles of bleach and other disinfectants, mops, gloves, masks, plywood, the basics just to begin getting their lives back in order. In time those materials will arrive by the truckload, but right now they need to get started.
And in the years since Hurricane Katrina, pets have become part of the disaster response in every community. People no longer need to make the choice of leaving their pets behind or staying with them to face possible death. Cats, dogs, bunnies, birds, all sorts of pets are permitted in cabs, on public transportation, in evacuation shelters, and they and their owners taken seriously.
Even small donations help. The American Red Cross, either the national organization or local chapters, puts cash to use for goods and services for people right away.
For animals, three national organizations are on the road and in the field distributing supplies and emergency veterinary care to pets in affected areas. American Humane has instructions on what to do in this emergency, Humane Society of the United States has photos of rescued pets on Facebook which you can access without a Facebook account, and ASPCA is reporting where they are distributing goods. They can each drive trucks of pet food and cat litter around much more easily than smaller organizations can. Donations to them will help continue as long as they need to, which may be quite some time in some areas.
Get ready for the holidays
And when the holidays come here’s an idea. Our flood in 2004 was in September, and as Christmas and Hanukkah approached people were facing a bleak holiday season. Most people had lost their holiday decorations and even gifts because they’d been stored in the basement, flooded in hundreds of homes. Many of us donated lights, ornaments, trees, wreaths, wrapping paper, boxes, cards and small gifts plus special gift bags of toys and treats for pets, and flood survivors could take what they needed. It wasn’t their same familiar things and didn’t replace family heirlooms, but it was a start in making it feel like a holiday.
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