“You feel like somebody is there with you”

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Client recalls Red Cross help after a home fire

By Annie Sorich

For Rami Odeh of Federal Way, Wash., a typical Tuesday may involve relaxing with his family, a shift at the hospital or catching up on school work as he studies to become a respiratory therapist. April 5th was not a typical Tuesday.

After seeing smoke coming in from his attached garage, Rami evacuated his house with his three children, ages 11, 8 and 2, and called 911. The fire department came quickly but by then the house and the two cars in the garage had been destroyed.

Two American Red Cross volunteers arrived on the scene and provided Rami and his family with information, supplies and—most importantly—emotional support. In addition to helping the family with emergency sheltering, the Red Cross provided basic necessities like toothbrushes and toiletries, as well as toys for the kids.

For Rami, one of the most valuable items he received was a book on life after a disaster. The information provided gave Rami direction on what to do on the first night after the fire, how to wash items salvaged from his home, warnings of additional post-fire hazards, plus countless resources for the days ahead.

With an interest in gaining skills to save lives, Rami was already familiar with the Red Cross. While living in California, Rami took CPR classes and volunteered to facilitate youth educational classes. Like many, he was familiar with the work of the Red Cross during major natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes. But he was not familiar with the disaster relief work that the Red Cross executes daily – a response on average every eight minutes. “I never suspected they would show up that quickly to a local disaster,” Rami said.

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Coming to terms with the loss of his home and all of the items inside has been an emotional struggle for Rami and his family, who have since moved into new home furnished with donated items. However, the irreplaceable momentos, like family photos, leave a void that can’t be filled. Rami, a Marine Corps veteran, also lost military medals and certificates.

Rami admits that he’s not prone to asking for assistance, so appreciated that the help offered to him and his family was immediate and unconditional. Throughout the month the family spent in transitional housing, Red Cross volunteers continued to check in with them.

“You feel like somebody is there with you,” Rami recalled, noting that the greatest impact on him was the volunteers who showed up. “It’s not what they give you, it’s that they’re actually there,” Rami said. “That’s what I remember the most.”

For anyone interested in home fire preparedness information, visit RedCross.org.

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