Heroes of the hurricanes


art by Haley Mitchell

Emma Lingo, news-features writer

On an average day, nurse Mark Cerroni sees about 40 patients filter through Florida’s Sarasota Memorial Hospital. After Hurricane Irma ravaged his state, that number shot up to 50 per day, and his normally half-full hospital met its capacity with 600 people crowded inside the medical center.

Irma, a Category 3 hurricane, blew over Florida September 10. CNN said 6.3 million Florida residents evacuated. Cerroni, a St. Louis native, is not a part of the 6.3 million that fled. Cerroni remained in Florida to do his job and got caught in the eye of the Hurricane Irma. Sarasota Memorial was on lockdown, meaning employees of the hospital were working 12-hour shifts to treat victims of Irma and could not go home. Every member of the hospital staff worked 12-hour shifts to treat victims of Irma. Cerroni described Florida as a battleground, with the streets covered in debris, houses with no electricity, people with no food or water and victims with no easy access to shelter. He saw the wild winds do their damage first-hand.

“I watched transformers blow [up],” Cerroni said. “It was like watching fireworks. I’m not usually scared of anything, but I was [scared looking at the storm.] It was ridiculous. There was stuff flying everywhere.”

Cerroni said the Red Cross has been a big help in Florida, distributing blood donations to hospitals and using cash donations to provide services like medically helping hurricane victims for free. The Red Cross is currently looking for volunteers from cities to travel down to the areas affected by Irma including Cerroni’s region south of Tampa. Cerroni urges people to volunteer or send donations through the Red Cross.

“[People] need to sit down and picture that they have no electricity, no food, no water and it’s hot,” said Cerroni. “You have no one to help you. It is an absolute nightmare. The people sitting on their couch watching their TV in the AC don’t think about that until it’s all gone. Those are the people that need to think about sparing four to eight hours to help [the victims].”

About 1,500 miles away, another hurricane, Hurricane Harvey, wrought havoc on Texas around the same time Irma rained down on Florida. Team Rubicon, a non-governmental organization run by veterans, has been helping victims from both Harvey and Irma get back on their feet and repair the billions of dollars in damage. The non-governmental organization run by veterans has been removing debris, helping repair fixable homes and sending volunteer groups to the especially devastated communities. Team Rubicon plans to send 2,000 volunteers to Texas by mid-November to provide aid to victims. John Bugée, Kirkwood resident and Team Rubicon member, is passionate about helping victims of natural disasters.

“You get more out of [volunteering] than you put into it,” Bugée said. “It’s a lot of work and it’s a lot of time away from home, but what you get back from it is more than worth it. Helping people on their worst day is incredibly gratifying.”

For Bugée, helping hurricane victims is special because of his past experience with hurricanes. The entire Bugée family had to relocate in 2005 after Katrina demolished their home in Waveland Miss. and eventually ended up living in St. Louis.

“[My family] lost everything.We had one vehicle and a couple of gym bags full of clothes, but our house, family pictures; everything was gone. I know what those people are going through. That’s what motivates me to do this particular form of service.”

Team Rubicon accepts cash donations for hurricane relief and will deploy any willing volunteers over the age of 18 to areas in need of aid. Volunteers can apply on the Team Rubicon website.

At KHS, the KHS Cares club is doing its part to relieve victims of hurricanes with a donation drive. Although the KHS Cares drive is over, groups such as the Red Cross, Team Rubicon and the Salvation Army all are still accepting donations for hurricane victims. Lindsay Kocher, sophomore and KHS Cares member, finds volunteering to be crucial.

“I personally have some family down [in Florida,]” Kocher said. “I think it is really important to help out because [the victims] obviously can’t help themselves. I feel like a lot of people are neglecting them because there’ve been so many hurricanes, but it is important that we help.”