The Red Cross established a base at P.S. 57 in East Harlem to provide services to victims of Wednesday's explosion. Credit: Emily Johnson
Within several hours of the explosion in Harlem Wednesday morning, traumatized witnesses and families who had lost loved ones were seeking shelter with the Red Cross.
By early afternoon, the disaster relief organization, coordinating with the Office of Emergency Management, had established a makeshift base at P.S. 57 on 115 St. between 3rd Ave. and Lexington Ave, just a few blocks from the site of the blast.
With school still in session, curious children peeked out the windows as Red Cross workers and volunteers unloaded crates of water and food from a truck parked outside.
Regional Chief External Affairs Officer Lynn Godfrey said that by about 2:30 p.m. the reception center was hosting several dozen families.
"We have 50-some-odd families so far," Godfrey said. "We have family members, residents, people from nearby buildings. Obviously people are traumatized by this very difficult event."
The services range from basic necessities like food, water and blankets to mental health resources aimed at assisting people through their grief.
"We have counsellors, case managers," Godfrey said. "We'll be here all day and night, for as long as we're needed. People are very rattled. A lot of the time it's just an ear they need."
Another Red Cross staffer, Michael de Vulpillieres, said before the organization could begin to provide emergency housing it needed to evaluate how many people had been displaced.