NACC member Nancy Many, who was deployed to offer spiritual care after Hurricane Irma in Florida and after the Las Vegas concert shooting, is taking the Red Cross’ annual pre-conference training on disaster response. She shares some initial thoughts below.
Soon I will be sitting in the Red Cross’ class for board-certified chaplains attending the annual APC/NACC convention. I have been waiting for the class to be given near me since I found out about it last fall. I joined the Las Vegas chapter of the Red Cross in the summer of 2017. I did all the courses I thought I needed at the time and deployed to the Florida Keys as spiritual care support after Hurricane Irma. That was an amazing experience. I returned to Las Vegas a day or two before Oct. 1.
I saw on the news what had happened at the concert and called the Red Cross to see where I could be useful. I arrived in the early hours of Oct. 2 at the main police station where people were gathering. The mix included family members desperate for news of their loved ones, and family members who already knew they had lost a loved one. Bystanders still covered in blood (but unhurt themselves) were side by side with the incoming responders from ATF, FBI, and many other agencies.
Every hour a spokesperson would read the list of names of the injured and which hospital they were at. This took some time due to the sheer volume of the injured. The room would be silent as the spokesman read names alphabetically, one hospital at a time, and friends and family awaited their loved one’s name. With each reading, the room got more somber – as if such a thing was possible.
I moved around the room offering presence, support and a listening ear where possible and prayers when desired.
A few days later, I learned that even though I was on my second deployment, I had missed the five-hour class. Now, as I wait for it to start, I wonder how it will be for me. I hope I will learn new skills, and perhaps have more comfort and peace within myself about the two disasters I have already been present for. One was a natural disaster, and one was entirely man-made.
In Florida, I loved seeing the “Red Cross Response” live and being a part of it. Yes, it’s chaos and disorganized, but the human spirit responds, and the care and interaction in the communities was amazing. But in Vegas, the well oiled machine of ‘responders’ angered me and made me realize that we (as a country) have normalized mass shootings.