Red Cross volunteer from Warren expects work to drain emotions
The Warren resident will help to supervise the work of aiding victims and rescue workers.
By DENISE DICK
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- Peter Orfanos has served as an American Red Cross volunteer at plane crash sites and areas ravaged by hurricanes and floods, but he leaves today for what he expects to be his most emotionally taxing volunteer effort.
Orfanos, 70, of Warren, will serve as a mass care coordinator for the American Red Cross in New York City to aid in the relief effort at the World Trade Center. The buildings collapsed Sept. 11 after hijackers crashed a jet into each tower.
He doesn't know yet what his assignment will be, but he'll work in a supervisory role in feeding, sheltering or distributing relief items for victims and rescue workers.
"It's my payback to the guy upstairs," Orfanos said. "The least I can do for him is to help somebody."
Orfanos, who is retired after working in construction, steel mills and as a tavern owner, started as a Red Cross volunteer 16 years ago.
"I started in 1985 when we had the tornado here," Orfanos said. "I volunteered then and just stayed with it."
Where he's served: He has volunteered at about 20 disaster sites, including areas devastated by Hurricanes Hugo, Andrew and Fran, floods in Oregon and southern Ohio but lists the USAir plane crash outside of Pittsburgh in the early 1990s as the most difficult so far.
"It gets hard," Orfanos said, wiping tears from his eyes. "You see things you never forget."
He expects a similar reaction from helping at the World Trade Center effort.
"This will probably be the worst any of us has ever seen," Orfanos said.
It's not the actual work that gets to him.
"As long as I'm busy, I'm OK," he said. "It's when I get back and start to think about the things I've seen."
Other volunteers: Orfanos will join fellow Trumbull County Red Cross volunteers John and Marian Scott of Cortland. The couple left Sept. 12 and will return next week.
Tim Settles, director of emergency services for the Trumbull County chapter, said the Scotts have worked at ground zero, using one of the agency's emergency response vehicles. Their duties have varied.
"Because of the mental health issues, they try not to leave anyone in one place for too long," Settles said.
He's spoken to the Scotts a few times since they headed to New York.
"The last time we spoke, I could tell they've seen a lot," Settles said.
Orfanos plans to stay at the disaster site for at least three weeks. How long he'll continue as a disaster-relief volunteer is anyone's guess.
"As long as my health holds out, I guess I'll keep going until the end comes," he chuckles.