Helping Others Join the Survivors Club

Jonah Thompson

"Never did I expect to apply the lessons I learned at eight previous operations on my own street."

Rust-colored water streamed from the treadmill as we moved it from one room to another. This is déjà vu, my nightmare and heartache, all I could do was cry in defeat. My children’s toy kitchens, bassinets meant to be passed to them for their children, Christmas trees which overcrowded our living rooms, my college textbooks with my annotations, all piled on the boulevard for the world to see. All gone, all destroyed, all trashed.

Then a Greyshirt brushed passed me and reality snapped in. This is not my treadmill. This is not my house, not my basement, not even my home town – this is Michigan. I reset my mind to my current task, to help those who are hurting like I was 10 years ago. My mission is to tell them we are here to lend a helping hand at what might be their darkest hour. I offer a hug with a few words of strength telling them that I understand their grief simply because I was in their position years ago. Most importantly, to let the homeowners know they joined a club – the survivors club.

My family did not truly understand why I spent Easter and Independence Day in disaster zones. Serving others in need does not stop on a holiday. However, I always hoped to serve alongside my family in their own grey shirts some day. This grey shirt is my imaginary superpower cape designed to lift the burden off the shoulders of those affected by a disaster.

Slowly my nightmare has transitioned into strength. This is largely due to the support of other super heroes in grey shirts.

My someday arrived late July 2017, when my home town suffered severe flash flooding. A small operation was launched and Team Rubicon sprung into action. Never did I expect to apply the lessons I learned at eight previous operations on my own street. Volunteers from Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Kentucky, and Indiana joined fellow Ohioans to do what Team Rubicon does best – serve a community in need. The extreme heat of Tyvek suits did not damper the smiles as we mucked out homes affected by the flood. I felt proud to be surrounded by heroes from far and near, including my husband.

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