Tuesday, January 31, 2017

My Visit to One World Observatory to Support the American Red Cross Mission

by Stan Frank, American Red Cross
The One World Observatory is at the top of the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere
Desiree Ramos Reiner and me at the entrance to OWO.
On a windy Monday morning, I met Desiree Ramos Reiner, the Greater New York Region Chief External Affairs Officer, at the corner of Vesey and West Streets for an adventure more than 100 stories above ground.

Last year, more than 50 million tourists visited New York City. The most popular tourist attraction in New York was the One World Observatory at One World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan. The Observatory is at the top of the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and is located on the 100th, 101st and 102nd floors of One World Trade Center.

Although I live in lower Manhattan, I had not yet visited the One World Observatory since it opened in May 2015. I thought it was time and I had an extra special reason for visiting now: To show its support of the Red Cross’s mission to prevent and alleviate human suffering worldwide, One World Observatory will donate a portion of special Red Cross admission tickets sold through February 10th to the organization. 

The destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001 was very traumatic for me as it was for millions of people in New York and around the world. On the one hand, I felt a deep sadness returning to the site, but, on the other hand, I felt a great pride that One World Trade had been rebuilt and demonstrated to the world that the United States is resilient and hopeful for the future.

After passing through the Global Welcome Center, we stopped to watch a short video titled “Voices”, which tells personal stories of some of the men and women who built One World Trade Center. It was very moving to hear their stories and to see the pride in their faces of what they accomplished in building this amazing tower.

It took hundreds of construction workers 14 years to rebuild the World Trade Center and the Observatory
The pathway to the elevators is built surrounded by solid bedrock, so it’s a little like walking through a cave. We then boarded one of five windowless elevators called Sky Pods, each of which can hold about 8 to 10 people. We rode the pod with another family, so there were five people in our pod. As soon as the doors closed, and before we even had time to feel nervous, our Sky Pod rose very swiftly and silently to the 102nd floor in less than 60 seconds. On the way up, a small wall monitor told us what floor we were passing and a remarkable floor-to-ceiling video projected on the Sky Pod walls showed a time lapse vision of New York City’s skyline from the 1600’s to the present day.

On the 102nd floor, we were first treated to a two-minute video presentation of a bird’s eye view of New York at the See Forever Theater before being directed to the Main Observation space on the 100th floor. The observation space which circles the entire 100th floor is wide and airy with high floor-to-ceiling windows that let you see the City from every angle. The views there are absolutely spectacular! We spent our time walking around pointing out landmarks we recognized on each side, including ferries, bridges, tunnels, sky scrapers, and the ports in Brooklyn and Bayonne.

On the west view, you can see the Hudson River beyond the George Washington Bridge and the New Jersey Palisades. On a clear day, you can see more than 25 miles!

East View with the Brooklyn Bridge.

The north view captures the Empire State Building and Midtown Manhattan

The south view shows the Statue of Liberty and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge which connects Brooklyn to Staten Island
A unique feature in the Observatory space is a 14 foot wide “disc” called the Sky Portal that is set into the floor where you can look down for an incredible perspective of real-time, high definition footage of Manhattan’s streets. You can actually see people and cars moving 100 floors below your feet!

Our feet standing on the 14 foot Sky Portal set into the Observation floor offers an incredible live view of the streets below
The Observatory is open from 9 a.m. to midnight seven days a week. Tickets are timed-admission and are valid for a specific time and date but, once inside, you can stay as long as you want. The Observatory also has its own gift shop and three different eateries from a casual café to a seated fine-dining restaurant for those who want to extend their stay. Many people time their visits for the incredible sunsets visible from the tower.

A visit to One World Observatory is an attraction that should not be missed. And if you purchase tickets by February 10th via this special link or by visiting https://oneworldobservatory.com/tickets/ and using code Redcross17, a portion of your ticket will go toward supporting the Red Cross. This is valid for tickets purchased for visits through March 31.

If you do have the chance to visit, let us know by tagging the American Red Cross In Greater New York on Facebook, Twitter (@redcrossny) and Instagram (@redcrossny). And don’t forget to tag and thank our friends at One World Observatory (@oneworldny).

In Case You Missed It - Jan 30

Hunter College Red Cross Club Volunteers installing smoke alarms in Hastings-on-Hudson. (Photo: Carolyn Sherwin)
Over the last 7 days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 134 adults and 65 children following 58 local disasters. Here are some highlights from last week and a preview of upcoming activities (see below).

Last Week in Review

Upcoming Events and Opportunities
  • Jan 31, Feb 7, 8: Red Cross blood drive: 2 to 7pm: 520 West 49th Street, Manhattan. Schedule an appointment to donate today.
  • Feb 4: #GetAlarmedNYC is coming to Sugar Hill and Harlem to help make the community safer one home at a time. Volunteer to help out
  • Feb 6: The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement Class is a free workshop that explores the history of the Global Red Cross Network, from the founding of the ICRC in 1863 to the establishment of the IFRC to the 1919 to the creation of National Societies present in 190 countries today. Register today
  • Feb 10: We are thrilled to announce that from now through Feb 10, One World Observatory will support American Red Cross donating $5 for each Standard Admission Ticket and $10 for each Priority Access Ticket sold via this special link. We hope to see you there!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

In Case You Missed It - Jan 23

Over 100 volunteers installed smoke alarms in Brooklyn. (Photo: Vivian Moy)
Over the last 7 days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 107 adults and 39 children following 45 local disasters. Here are some highlights from last week and a preview of upcoming activities (see below).

Last Week in Review  

Upcoming Events and Opportunities
  • Jan 24, 31: Red Cross blood drive: 2 to 7pm: 520 West 49th Street, Manhattan. Schedule an appointment to donate today.
  • Jan 24: The Young Patrons group will be at offices iHeartMedia to help out with the Missing Maps Project
  • Jan 28: Want to become a part of the Red Cross Movement and help change the world one community at a time? Register to attend our volunteer orientation and learn about the many ways you can impact your community and make new friends by volunteering with the American Red Cross. 
  • Feb 6: The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement Class is a free workshop that explores the history of the Global Red Cross Network, from the founding of the ICRC in 1863 to the establishment of the IFRC to the 1919 to the creation of National Societies present in 190 countries today. Register today
  • Feb 10: We are thrilled to announce that from now through Feb 10, One World Observatory will support American Red Cross donating $5 for each Standard Admission Ticket and $10 for each Priority Access Ticket sold via this special link. We hope to see you there!

Monday, January 16, 2017

In Case You Missed It - Jan 16

Red Cross supporting first responders at a 5-Alarm Bronx warehouse fire. (Photo: Francisco Resto)
Over the last 7 days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 121 adults and 48 children following 57 local disasters. Here are some highlights from last week and a preview of upcoming activities (see below).

Last Week in Review

Upcoming Events and Opportunities
  • Jan 3, 5, 6, 9: Red Cross blood drive: 2 to 7pm: 520 West 49th Street, Manhattan. Schedule an appointment to donate today.
  • Jan 16 and 21: #GetAlarmedNYC is coming to Sunset Park, Brooklyn to help make the community safer one home at a time. On MLK Day, we will be taking appointments and then on Saturday, we will be installing smoke alarms in the community. Volunteer to help out, or sign up to get a free smoke alarm installed in your home.
  • Jan 28: Want to become a part of the Red Cross Movement and help change the world one community at a time? Register to attend our volunteer orientation and learn about the many ways you can impact your community and make new friends by volunteering with the American Red Cross. 
  • Feb 6: The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement Class is a free workshop that explores the history of the Movement from its inception with the ICRC in 1863 all the way to the three components of the Movement today. Register today!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

In Case You Missed It - Jan 9

Long Island Red Crossers going out to install free smoke alarms on a chilly morning.
Over the last 7 days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 138 adults and children following 41 local disasters. Here are some highlights from last week and a preview of upcoming activities (see below).

Last Week in Review

Upcoming Events and Opportunities
  • Jan 11, 16: Red Cross blood drive: 2 to 7pm: 520 West 49th Street, Manhattan. Schedule an appointment to donate today.
  • Jan 21: #GetAlarmedNYC is coming to Sunset Park, Brooklyn to help make the community safer one home at a time. Volunteer to help out, or sign up to get a free smoke alarm installed in your home.
  • Jan 28: Want to become a part of the Red Cross Movement and change the world one community at a time? Register for a FREE orientation and learn about the many ways you can impact your community and make new friends by volunteering with the American Red Cross.


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

In Case You Missed It - Jan 2


Over the last 7 days, the Greater New York Red Cross provided emergency assistance to 142 adults and 59 children following 58 local disasters. Here are some highlights from last week and a preview of upcoming activities (see below).

Last Week in Review

Upcoming Events and Opportunities
  •  Jan 3, 5, 6, 9: Red Cross blood drive: 2 to 7pm: 520 West 49th Street, Manhattan. Schedule an appointment to donate today.

International Services: Restoring Family Links

By Stan Frank, American Red Cross

There is nothing more heartbreaking than when someone has lost track of a family member and does not know where they are, if he or she is dead or alive, healthy or sick. Psychologists say that not knowing, not having any resolution one way or the other about the condition of a family member, is often worse than learning of someone’s death. In death, there is at least an ending, a resolution, closure. Not knowing is a continuous mental burden that can weigh heavily on an individual for a lifetime.

Globally, the Red Cross Red Crescent network, of which the American Red Cross is a member, has worked for more than 130 years to help the world’s most vulnerable. As part of its Restoring Family Links (RFL) program, the International Services Department of the American Red Cross offers worldwide tracing services to family members who have lost track of each other as a result of humanitarian crises such as armed conflict, natural disasters and other factors. For families of displaced persons, these services provide hope and a way to restore contact with loved ones.

One of the most active regions in the country for Restoring Family Links is the Greater New York Region. Typically, the Greater New York regional office handles 150 to 200 new cases annually for people seeking connections with lost family members throughout the world. To initiate a case, a person will contact the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) or the Red Cross/Red Crescent office in their area and submit an official tracing inquiry. The tracing inquiry provides all detailed information available on the person being sought. The information includes basic details such as full name, gender, date of birth, last known residence, profession, etc. as well as information on the reason for the lost connection (i.e. war, natural disaster, international migration, etc.), date of last contact and any other relevant information that could help in a search, such as photos, birth certificate, maps, etc.

The tracing inquiry is then forwarded to the American Red Cross Headquarters in Washington, D.C. where it is evaluated and sent on to a local chapter caseworker for follow up. Depending on the situation, there are numerous ways a caseworker can seek to locate someone including the following:
  • Phone or write a letter to the person if that information is available in the Tracing Inquiry
  • Visit the last known address of the individual and inquire if he or she is known there
  • Conduct an Internet search and check the White Pages
  • Search through social networking websites
  • Check with refugee resettlement agencies
  • Contact local ethnic or refugee organizations
  • Check with the Department of Motor Vehicles
  • Check with places of worship and professional associations
  • Check obituaries and cemetery records
If searches are not successful in the U.S. or abroad, it is possible to utilize media to search for a missing individual. With the approval of American Red Cross Headquarters, a Red Cross chapter may utilize targeted media outreach to locate a sought person.

For the cases that are initiated in the U.S., the procedure is similar. An inquirer would open a Red Cross tracing case in New York, for example, which would then be submitted to the American Red Cross Headquarters where it is evaluated and sent on to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) or the Red Cross/Red Crescent society in the relevant country for follow up. A caseworker in the local office abroad would then search for the person using whatever methods necessary.

In addition to tracing inquiries, the RFL program also provides other services including Red Cross Messages, Health and Welfare Inquiries, International Disaster Inquiries and Holocaust and WWII Tracing and Documentation services.

Red Cross Messages are used to send written messages between separated family members. These are used when the sender knows the location of their family member but no means of communication are available. These messages are often used by individuals in refugee camps or detention centers.

Health and Welfare Inquiries are used to assist particularly vulnerable individuals, including the elderly or ill, minor children and mentally or physically handicapped people to reestablish communication with family members. For these cases, the immediate loss of communication is not due to armed conflict or natural disaster, but rather due to a family emergency or vulnerability.

International Disaster Inquiries are used to assist family members who have lost communication as a result of a sudden, large-scale international disaster. Availability of service depends on the capacity of the Red Cross or Red Crescent national society in the affected country where the disaster occurs.

Holocaust and WWII Tracing and Documentation services aim to provide information about the fate of family members who were victims of the Holocaust, or were separated by WWII and its aftermath. Such information can help reconnect families, and assist individuals in securing clarification of internment in concentration and forced labor camps. This service often relies on collaboration between several Red Cross societies and the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen, Germany. The latter houses one of the largest Holocaust archives worldwide (about 30 million documents) and works in close relationship with the Global Red Cross to provide documents to beneficiaries.

A good example of a recent successful search for a missing family member comes from the Chicago and North Illinois Red Cross Region. Last summer, a man named Jemel who was staying in a Kenyan refugee camp, sought Red Cross help in finding his missing uncle, Daniel, an Ethiopian man whose last known address was somewhere in the Chicago area. Katie, a new RFL caseworker was assigned to deliver a Red Cross Message to Daniel.

Working with her RFL Program Manager, Michelle, Katie reviewed all the case data and tried to locate Daniel but was unsuccessful. The phone number in the case file proved to be inactive; Google searches led to a dead end; a year-old Twitter account was no help; even visits to his last known residence came up cold.

Finally, Katie and Michelle decided to reach out to Chicago’s Ethiopian community for help. They began visiting Ethiopian restaurants in Chicago, but no one recognized Daniel’s name or photo. They even tried the Ethiopian Community Association of Chicago with no success.

It was not until Katie and Michelle visited the Ethiopian Diamond Restaurant that their luck changed. The owner of the restaurant said he knew almost everyone from Ethiopia in Chicago and was confident he could find Daniel. Sure enough, the restaurant owner located Daniel and two weeks later Daniel phoned the Red Cross office and spoke to Katie who set up a meeting with him. He was thrilled to learn that his nephew, Jemel, was alive and safe after so many years of separation. The two men are now reconnected and back in communication with their families.

Ethiopian Restaurant Owner and Katie, Red Cross RFL Caseworker
Needless to say, keeping track of all the details involved in the worldwide tracing services of the Red Cross is an enormous task. In order to manage this task, the American Red Cross has developed its own proprietary Restoring Family Links Case Management System. This is a web-based system that enables RFL caseworkers to see, create, update and monitor information for all their chapter’s cases. Caseworkers can use the system to attach letters, photos, maps or other documents for their cases. In addition to maintaining information on tracing services, the system also permits caseworkers to send and receive Red Cross Messages, Health and Welfare Inquiries and International Disaster Inquiries.

In the Greater New York Region, the Restoring Family Links Program is managed by Sara Onvani. Sara assumed her current position this past April, and is also a former International Services volunteer herself (Boston Chapter). Sara holds a Master’s degree in International Affairs from Columbia University and a Master’s degree in Laboratory Medicine from University of Toronto. Prior to joining the Red Cross, she served as a consultant on health-related international development projects and spent several years performing medical research. 

Sara Onvani, Regional Program Specialist, 
International Services Department of Greater New York 
Sara says, “ever since Clara Barton established the American Red Cross more than 130 years ago, the Red Cross has been there globally for those affected by disasters, war and humanitarian crises of every kind. Restoring Family Links and its worldwide tracing function is but one of the many services we provide. There is no greater feeling than bringing together family members who have been separated for years or bringing closure to people who have been carrying the heavy burden of not knowing what happened to their loved ones. I go home every night feeling a sense of satisfaction that I have contributed in some way to help relieve the pain and suffering of someone in need. There is no greater feeling than that!”

To learn more about International Services and Restoring Family Links, contact us at Redcross.org/reconnectingfamilies, call us at 202-303-1600 or visit our blog at Restoring FamilyLinksBlog.com.

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