Laura Marsh (pictured at left), treasurer of the Quota club of Kauai, Hawaii, U.S.A., serves on a disaster health services outreach team for the American Red Cross. Although the retired nurse had helped out on the scene of previous disasters, namely hurricanes, earthquakes and floods, nothing could prepare her for the needs of the disaster victims at the World Trade Center in New York, just days after the terrorist attacks that leveled the twin towers.
“It was heart-wrenching, but very satisfying to be able to assist the victims at Ground Zero,” Laura says. “I felt a great sense of camaraderie and community among the volunteers. It was an honor to be there.”
Laura recently retired from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, where she worked in Hawaii as a psychiatric and home care nurse, specialized in gerontology. Her varied work experience and a master’s degree in community health proved useful in the effort to help residents of the Battery Park neighborhood, located between one-half block to three blocks from the attack site.
One of Laura’s tasks was to help neighborhood residents by offering first aid and medical assessments and serving as an advocate to find doctors and pharmacies to refill prescriptions and provide other needs. Another primary role was health education. “I reinforced basic hygiene and health needs. And I reassured patients that what the health department had told them was correct about the dangers surrounding the site and health needs that might arise. We gave out a lot of masks and water. It was very stressful for all of us, but, as I said, very rewarding,” Laura explains.
Edith Beaujon, a minister and member of the Quota club of Aruba, arrived at Ground Zero in New York shortly after the terrorist attacks to offer counseling to rescue workers and victims’ families. Although she says the work has been rewarding, she, too, notes the level of stress involved in the work. She has been in New York for more than two months.