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Bremerton Red Cross volunteer relives hurricane experience
Tracee Dunn sat in a hotel room in Louisiana while Hurricane Ike battered the region in early September.
The American Red Cross volunteer was one of 19 people from the Red Cross West Sound Chapter to travel to the region after Hurricane Gustav hit in September. Shortly after that, Hurricane Ike battered the already-ravaged region.
Dunn, of East Bremerton, left for Baton Rouge, La. Sept. 4. She then traveled to New Orleans and finally landed in the southeastern part of the state in Houma, La.
“I was very excited to go help,” Dunn said.
It was Dunn’s first deployment as a Red Cross volunteer and although she was excited to help the people in the region, she was nervous about what the conditions would be like once she arrived in Louisiana.
“It could be stuff (that was) not so bad to holy cow,” she said.
Dunn asked her co-workers at the Red Cross’ Bremerton office tons of questions before she deployed, but she said the other Red Cross volunteers in Louisiana really showed her the ropes.
“All the people down there were super great, so that helped a lot,” Dunn said.
She worked in mass care sheltering while in Louisiana. She worked in four different shelters, the largest of which housed almost 200 people.
“I would help open shelters, close shelters, run shelters,” Dunn said. “It’s just like running your house except on a much larger scale.”
She said the people in need of aid were “amazing” and she enjoyed helping them. She said they would help keep the shelters clean and take care of one another.
“The clients were so thankful. They wanted to do everything they could to show their appreciation,” she said. “It turned into a little community.”
Dunn became close with some of the clients, including a young family of three, the Browns. The Brown family, consisting of a young mother, father and their 10- or 11-month-old son, lived in Houma. After they were evacuated as Hurricane Gustav threatened the region, a tree crashed through their trailer. Their home was then flattened to the ground after Hurricane Ike hit.
Dunn said she still talks to the Browns and they are living with a family member until they get back on their feet.
“They were so sweet. I really miss them,” she said.
She spent the last eight days of her deployment working in health services.
“If people had a headache, we’d help them get Tylenol,” Dunn said. “We took blood pressures. We’d just see what we could do to help them and comfort them.”
Dunn slept on a cot all but two days of her deployment. On her day off, she stayed in a hotel and experienced Hurricane Ike firsthand. She never experienced anything like it before and the hurricane was both loud and quiet at the same time.
“After Gustav hit there was a pretty good amount of damage, but after Ike hit it was bad, really bad,” Dunn said. “I’d never seen anything like that before.”
She said she’s glad she had the opportunity to travel to Louisiana and help people affected by the hurricanes.
“Nobody prays for disaster, but when you can go out and help people who experience this all the time, it feels good,” Dunn said. “I really appreciated being able to go.”
As for future deployments, Dunn said she’s ready and willing to deploy with the Red Cross again if necessary.
“Definitely. They have my number,” she said with a smile.