by Anthony Tornetta, guest contributor, Red Cross Philadelphia

PICAs I rested my head on the pillow following a very long day, the alarm clock was quickly sounding and it was time for day two.

I arrived at the Command Center in Houston bright and early on Friday, May 29th as the team was gathering for an early morning briefing session and weather update.

I was quickly partnered up with Dave Schafer, a volunteer photographer from Dallas, who is in town helping document Red Cross relief efforts.

Dave and I geared up and out the door we went. Our first stop was at the Chinese Community Center where the Red Cross has been running a shelter since Sunday, May 24th for those impacted by a Tornado that recently hit the area.

It is always an inspiring experience to see how Red Cross volunteers from across the country can come together, so quickly, to help so many people in need. Red Crossers truly do make a big difference.

The Chinese
A volunteer working at the Chinese Community Center shelter  

As we explored the shelter, talking with those who were impacted by the Tornado, you could see that residents where happy to have the Red Cross responding and assisting as they start the recovery process.

We also had the chance to talk with Congressman Al Green, U.S. House of Representatives 9th District of Texas, as he visited the shelter talking with volunteers and members of the affect community.

Following our visit at the Community Center, we were off to visit the actual impact zone where the tornado touched down in Houston.

As we arrived, it was easy to see that our Red Cross impact was quickly being felt by the surrounding community. An Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV), had just arrived and was preparing to serve meals to those in need, case-workers were talking with families who in some cases had just lost everything. Volunteers expressed to community members that we are here and will work with them every step of the way as these resilient residents work towards recover.

I have lived through Hurricane Sandy, as it hammered the Northeast corridor of the United States and was stationed in Pascagoula, Mississippi, with the U.S. Navy, as Hurricane Katrina ripped through the south, but I have never seen the impact of a Tornado first hand.

I had the chance to talk with Red Cross volunteers from across the country, at the Rockport apartment complex, as they worked together to help residents begin the rebuilding process. When I asked them what motivated them to volunteer, I noticed a common theme…“The desire to give back”!

I still haven’ met J.J. Watt from the Houston Texans, but the week isn’t over yet!