Red Cross History: A glimpse of the past, a reflection of the future

In a dusty binder at the American Red Cross of Eastern Massachusetts in Cambridge, I stumbled upon some breath-taking photos of the Red Cross during the 1940s and 50s, and after a little research, found a story that reflects the message of the Red Cross Disaster Relief efforts, and those who give the greatest amount of care to people touched by disaster. 

On September 11, 1961 Hurricane Carla tore into the Texas Coast, flooding many communities.  It was unusual in those days to “run from a storm” and usually impractical because of lack of transportation and a place to stay. Carla was so severe that 75 percent of the residents in the affected areas were forced to flee inland because the rising waters. 

Shortly after the storm, the first American Red Cross diaster teams began to lend their support to the communities by helping people evacuate, aiding those rendered homeless by the storm, and rescuing those lost in the debris.

On September 19, Red Cross rescue convoys arrived to evacuate 2,000 Texas City residents. Reluctant to desert their homes, the residents spent four days and nights in a temporary shelter that the Red Cross helped set up in a school building.  

As one survivor recalls “I’ll never forget the sounds of Carla outside howling – it made everyone pause and be silent, not in fear but in awe – a nice size Red Cross contigent was in there and we certainly ate plenty of tasty sandwiches with chocolate milk – I’ll never forget that night and day – when Carla gave us her “dirty side.”   When sanitary conditions became untneuable and roads were clear, the Red Cross rescue conveys of buses and trucks safely transported the evacuees to shelters in Houston.

To see more pictures of the diaster relief crews and other photographic treasures we have here in the office check out our Flickr acount.


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