It was 20 Years Ago Today: A Volunteer Looks Back

By Curtis Hoberman, Red Cross volunteer

It was 20 years ago today – my first disaster response.

It’s not easy to forget – it was the response to the Durham Woods Gas Explosion in Edison.

Edison High School became the Reception Center, as school was not in session that day.  The cafeteria teemed with activity of families reuniting, food being served to the affected families, and the work of family services beginning as classrooms became casework centers. 

In the days that followed, the Red Cross became a source of information and acted as somewhat of a liaison for displaced families  with representatives of the pipeline company. The company helped cover the families’ expenses for relocation and their accommodations.

My involvement in disaster services began with an introductory course in 1993 as taught by Disaster Services staff member Doris Harper. I became interested in Disaster Services after having witnessed the American Red Cross disaster response to what was then the biggest disaster response of that time, the major flooding of the Mississippi River and Missouri River watersheds in 1993.

A friend in Princeton, Jane Fremon, headmistress of the Princeton Friends School, volunteered and helped in Illinois on that one. I was inspired by her service to get involved in Disaster Services, after having been involved in the Red Cross since 1972 as a health and safety services instructor in Water Safety, Lifeguarding, CPR, and First Aid.

It has been an honor to serve my community and state as a Red Cross Disaster Services Volunteer.  I am still amazed that I have the privilege of being involved in a helping and supportive role at the time of greatest need in the life of a person or a family. I think of Clara Barton responding in disaster relief to the flood in Johnstown, PA, in 1889 and to the hurricane in Galveston, TX, in 1900, and am in awe that I am part of that heritage of responding to those in need.

We do important work.  We do great work in serving others.  We have a fantastic team.

New York Times Archives: “Huge Gas Pipeline Explosion Rocks Northeast New Jersey”, March 24, 1994

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