Sept. 11 service: ‘It does change you’

Why go to New Jersey in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001?

“To help.”

Tad Primus needs few words to explain it, though many emotions are behind it.

Primus, manager of Hood River Safeway since April, volunteered for three weeks with the American Red Cross, with his wife, Tonya, nearly a year ago.

“We’re very grateful for everything we’ve got. It does change you,” Tad said. “Anyone who goes back, you appreciate it. You appreciate the things in your life more and more.”

A year ago the couple lived in Pendleton, where Tad managed Safeway. Both were active in the local Red Cross chapter. Tad said Safeway took the unusual step of allowing him three weeks’ leave to go and donate their organizational skills to supplying relief efforts in Manhattan and New Jersey. Tad helped in the purchasing department and Tonya helped in transportation.

“It was very, very rewarding work for me,” said Tonya, who has 23 years’ experience as an office manager. She was responsible for 350 vehicles used by mental health counselors who fanned out across New Jersey to work with victims’ families — some of whom were not expressly willing to receive counseling.

Tad, in his 31st year with Safeway, said the Red Cross work itself was not much different from running a grocery store, he said. He got on well with his three co-workers as they dealt with heavy demand from agencies seeking supplies.

“In the first week we had 50 people at a time in a small room wanting something,” he said. That lessened by the third week.

“Emotionally, it was a lot harder,” Tad said.

“They told me when I got there I could have a day off after 10 days, and I said ‘Ah, I’ll just work on through.’ By the time 10 days came, I tell you, I was so ready for a day off.

“Seeing the sadness of people. I’ve never been around that much sadness,” he said. “To see the people and see the mess, see the families ... People were involved there for a common good,” he said, stopping to let those words sink in.

Like her husband, Tonya’s eyes well up when she talks about it. Her father drowned when she was a child, and his body was never found.

“It made me feel like I could identify with those children who didn’t know where parents were,” she said.

“It was almost like a dream,” she said. “You just almost can’t believe it was real. You were just running on adrenaline.”

The couple spent most of their time in New Jersey but they did go to visit Ground Zero.

“The memories will stick in my mind,” Tad said. “The faces, stories, the people, the sadness, literally you just don’t forget it.

“Those people in New York, must still be living in that fear. It’s been a year but those people must have that fear in their mind. There will always be that feeling. It will never be closed.”

Tad said the firefighters made the biggest impression on him.

“They went to save people who were probably already lost, and many of them lost their lives ... you talk about heroes.” He said that as the firefighters left their shifts at Ground Zero, “They looked so tired they could barely pull their legs. And they knew they had lost so many of their good friends and it easily could have been them. It was incredible.”

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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