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LIers head to Oklahoma to aid tornado victims

Left, a fire burns in the Tower Plaza

Left, a fire burns in the Tower Plaza Addition in Oklahoma City. Right, a child calls out after being pulled from the rubble of the Tower Plaza Elementary School. (May 20, 2013) Credit: AP

Six months after volunteers poured into Long Island to help with superstorm Sandy recovery, Craig Cooper, between flights at the Baltimore/Washington International Airport, said, "I'm so proud" to be able to carry forward their caring efforts. This time the need is near Oklahoma City where at least 24 lives were lost Monday in the wake of a massive tornado.

"Now the shoe is on the other foot," said Cooper, a volunteer with the American Red Cross on Long Island who'll serve as a spokesman for that organization's activities. Already, he said, six shelters were open in the area and 25 emergency response vehicles have been sent to the scene.

Cooper, 59, of Smithtown, was en route to Kansas City, where he said he would be updated with information as to his ultimate destination in the tornado-hit region.

Having seen "the brutality of tornadoes" on other occasions, he said he's expecting a "very unsettling" scene, likely one in which "homes are completely leveled, vacuumed off their foundations."

A freelance video and event producer, Cooper said he started volunteering after seeing images of the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Katrina. At that time, he said, he thought "I can't just sit here and do nothing. I have to do something."

Also en route to the area Tuesday -- and calling in from Long Island MacArthur Airport -- was Joan Broderick, 61, an associate professor of psychology at Stony Brook University and a Red Cross volunteer since 1995.

In her role as disaster mental health manager, she and her team will likely help in assessing people's immediate needs for, say, water or finding their families; listen to their stories; and remind them that "people are strong and resilient" and that they can "plug into the coping strategies used in the past," said Broderick, of Westhampton.

She also said her team likely will be providing support to other disaster volunteers, especially in this community where so many children lost their lives.

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