When Disaster Becomes Personal

Roger Lang is no stranger to disaster or to the American Red Cross, having spent countless volunteer hours on the giving end of the Red Cross preparedness message and community outreach. As a young man he worked side by side for 14 years with his mother, a Red Cross Volunteer, teaching first aid and CPR. As a “Storm Chaser” back in Kansas, he has seen his fair share of tornadoes and the devastation they leave in their path.

Many times in the aftermath of disaster, he said to people “I am so sorry for your loss, I understand your pain.” Lang stated “I said that to people to comfort them, but I didn’t really know or understand that pain until it happened to me.”

Roger was asleep in his mobile home at 1:25 am on February 29, 2012 in the neighborhood known as Mount Branson, Missouri. That’s when disaster struck. Roger had watched the evening news and was aware that the weather was stormy, but said it did not appear to be something he should worry about at that time. He and Blossom, his seizure assist dog, went to bed knowing that if the weather were to get worse they would hear the storm sirens.

Unfortunately, the storm siren never sounded. According to news reports, “a warning service that likely cost millions of dollars failed to activate when tornadoes hit Branson, MO, last week (KSPR).” 33 individuals were reported to have minor injuries but thankfully no lives were lost. Roger Lang was among those injured, sustaining a broken foot when a large tree in his front yard uprooted and toppled onto his mobile home. Roger lay unconscious, trapped in his bed with the roof and walls burying he and Blossom.

When he awoke, it was to the sound of the wind and rain which blew freely through his shattered home. Blossom, ever by his side, was sitting over him with a protective stance. They had survived. It was then that Roger found himself on the receiving end of Red Cross services. He spent three days in the Disaster Shelter and worked with a Red Cross caseworker, Volunteer Jackie McCracken, to get a sense of normalcy back. Roger lost everything in the disaster, yet “he just jumped right in and started helping us (Red Cross Volunteers) and the other victims in the shelter” says McCracken.

It is through the assistance of The American Red Cross and other partner agencies that Roger has found a home. He and Blossom visited the Multi-Agency Relief Center (MARC) in Branson and were able to connect with resources that he may not have known about or had access to without the assistance of Jackie and the other Red Cross caseworkers. In the past two weeks they have begun to put things back to normal.

It is a gift from the American people that allows the Red Cross to help bring hope in the wake of disaster; to bring hope to Roger and Blossom. With great appreciation, Roger said “without the Red Cross, we wouldn’t have had anywhere to go after the storm and I don’t know where we would be today.”

The last message Roger asked me to share was one of preparedness. As we discussed the events surrounding the disaster, Roger reminded me that it is our personal responsibility to make sure that we are safe by being prepared. Having a plan that includes a disaster kit. Be informed by using a weather radio because “you never know if you will hear the sirens or not.”

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