Searching for ways to help — and make sense of the senseless — in times of disaster

Rest in peace, Emily.

It’s been a really hard week — both close to home, and for America as a people.

Last week, I was home for a few days in between my Vegas and Wisconsin trips, and discovered some absolutely horrific news.

You may have heard on the news about Emily Singleton? The young, beautiful Brooklyn girl who was found dead on the subway after being on the tracks for over 12 hours?

It’s a terrible story. And no one is really clear about what happened, how she got on the tracks, and why she was there so long — and the news was sharing the story for hours that first day before they revealed her name.

In fact, I didn’t find out her name until I arrived at my apartment that night. And found reporters hanging out outside the front door. Because I knew the victim. I knew her very well – she’s lived 2 doors down from me in my small brownstone for the past two years. She was a beautiful, sweet girl — even volunteered to help me when I ran my post-Sandy relief stoop sale a few months ago – studying to be an actress. Her whole life ahead of her.

How does that happen? How does a girl go out with her girlfriends for a few drinks and a few hours end up mangled on a subway tracks?

And perhaps the most (personally) shocking part was how quickly something that was so earth-shattering for myself and mutual friends who knew her was how rapidly it disappeared from the news. A day later, people were just done talking about it. Has such disaster become so commonplace?

The vibrating sense of trauma and fear post death or disaster – personal or as a nation – it never really leaves us. 13 years after 9/11, I can still tell you exactly where I was at the moment those planes hit.  I had just started my first job post-college, as a copy editor at a small vanity press, and was just getting to work that morning, lingering over my coffee, when news broke in on the office radio. I worked near Penn Station — miles away from the carnage – but we could see and smell the smoke – and the sense of fear of what was to come next is something that will never ever leave me. As will every moment of that day, and the eerie stillness on the subway as I commuted in for work the next.

Yesterday, I was watching General Hospital when the news broke in — this time to tell the horrific story of the bombings at the Boston Marathon. Just as on 9/11, the immediate aftermath was full of misinformation from various news sources trying to get the news out first – but the overwhelming truth was one of terrible carnage and sadness and loss. There were children there running in memory of the Newtown shootings. Still, no one is exactly sure who or what was at the root – meaning there is still a vicious murderer on the loose. Was his attack on the city of Boston, or on America? Will there be copycat attacks in other places? Is this the end of his attacks? Was it an act of terrorism or the criminal act of a sad, sick individual? No one knows. But the loss, and the terror, it’s all very much the same.

I don’t feel right writing about beauty or fashion today. I have no disrespect for the people who wish to – but what I really want to do is write about little ways we can help in this or any situation where people are in need.

Previous to yesterday’s horrifying happenings, I was in the works of planning on hosting a blood drive for next month. May 17 will commemorate one year since the last time I received a blood transfusion — meaning I’m finally allowed to donate blood again. I’d love to celebrate by gathering my friends together and having them donate as well. (Possibly with revelry to follow) – if you are interested in joining in, or helping in some way, please let me know. I’m hoping to do the drive sometime in late May – New York Blood Center will even donate a van and staff to do the donations in if we give them somewhere to park! So I’m really excited about that. But even if you have no interest or availability for that – whatever city you live in, Boston or otherwise, please donate blood and platelets whenever you can. Whether after natural or manmade disasters, there’s very often a shortage of blood available — and a shortage of people able to donate. So please look up where you can donate in your own area, and do so as soon as you can.

If, God forbid, you have loved ones in Boston you haven’t heard from yet, the American Red Cross also has a Safe and Well website so people who are looking for loved ones involved in the Boston Marathon can locate them.

Also, if you are in Boston and are safe and sound, there are many visitors to the city, Marathon participants or spectators who are now stranded in the Boston area and need a place to stay. If you know any of them, they can fill out THIS FORM to connect with people who are offering housing. (And if you can offer housing, that’d be amazing as well!)

*just added* Help feed the emergency workers in Boston who have been working tirelessly all this time, many of whom are volunteers. Order through Anytime Pizza on Grub Hub. They have been graciously accepting orders as donations and making deliveries happen. The details: Place your order here http://bit.ly/12jMpVK by using the address 55 Fruit St. Boston, MA 02114 and be sure to type in DONATION in the special instructions.

The Salvation Army is providing support to survivors and first responders. The best way to be of assistance is by making a financial contribution on their websitePersonnel trained in crisis response are providing a service as well. If you would like to volunteer for future needs or be trained in disaster response, click here.

Ten of the victims were taken to Boston’s Children’s Hospital. The hospital is updating its website with news as it becomes available. Follow @BostonChildrens on Twitter for updates.The Children’s Hospital website also has useful resources for guidance on how to talk to children after a tragedy. Donate to Boston’s Children’s Hospital.

Donate to the Richard family: According to this Facebook posting, “Anyone looking to make a donation to help the Richard Family can go directly to Meetinghouse Bank or Vargas & Vargas Insurance in Lower Mills. The account name is: Richard Family Fund. For convenience, they have set up additional locations in Dorchester that will have a donation “drop box” for the Richard Family Fund.” Check out the Facebook page for more details. The Meetinghouse Bank has set up account for Richard family to accept donations. Call 617-298-2250 and ask for customer service to get more details.

Text to donate: Patriots defensive captain Vince Wilfork is trying to help. He tweets: “Text VINCE to 50555 to donate $10 to the Vince Wilfork Foundation all proceeds until end of the month will benefit victims of Boston bombs.”

Tech Underwriting Greater Good (TUGG) launched a campaign on Fundraise.com to for donations that will go to the Red Cross, Children’s Hospital and more. For example, Boston-area restaurant, El Pelon Taqueria welcomed those displaced tweeting “open wifi, place to charge cell, or just don’t want to be alone, food and drinks – pay only if you can.”

In addition, the 26 Acts of Kindness movement that originated after Sandy Hook is also being reinvigorated for the victims of the marathon. Participants set out to do 26 selfless acts, chronicled on Facebook and now on Twitter as #26Acts2.

Register to offer mental health services or receive them: http://www.giveanhour.org/

Resources for Boston businesses affected in the tragedy, are being held at the Park Plaza Hotel: http://www.cityofboston.gov/news/default.aspx?id=6080

I’ll try to share here and on my Twitter and any other info I can find on how to help. But in the meantime, I’m trying to keep the faith that even though there’s terrible people in the world – there’s also a lot of amazing people. There’s people yesterday that after completing the marathon ran to the hospitals to give blood. There’s people who ran toward the carnage to help victims, even when they didn’t know themselves if that put them in the field of danger. As long as these beautiful people outnumber the bad, the terrorists – homegrown or otherwise – will never win. So, just remember to always love one another. It may be hokey, but that’s the ultimate victory.

And to my dear friends in Boston, who thank God I was able to speak to all of you yesterday, I <3 you and am thinking of you!


  1. Lily

    That was beautiful!

  2. Ugh, I have tears in my eyes. These tragedies are just so so so awful. :(

  3. Nancy Reid

    You can always be depended on to lend a helping hand! Thanks for bringing all these wonderful ideas to our attentions! xox


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