Georgia Maxwell has seen first hand the wrath of Mother Nature as she provided comfort and counseling for the victims of hurricanes in Puerto Rico, floods in Maine and tornadoes in the middle west.
But the devastation the 76-year-old Red Cross volunteer saw during four weeks in flood-ravaged Missouri was unlike any she had seen before, she said yesterday.
Despite the damage, though, she said the victims were "mostly philosophical about the whole thing."
"They knew they were on flood lands, although the water had never come up this far in hundreds of years," she said. "They were very accepting of nature's will."
Mrs. Maxwell and several other volunteers from around the country met in St. Louis in hopes of providing counseling and support to hundreds devastated from the flooding of a 25-square-mile area around the banks of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers at a shelter in a high school.
Mrs. Maxwell, a member the Glen Burnie chapter of the American Red Cross for nine years, is a trained volunteer with Family Services, a support group for the victims of natural disasters.
"I've worked floods before," said the Crofton resident. "I knew what to expect when I got there. It was like how it was shown on the news -- homes with five to six feet of water, others completely submerged."
Shortly after her arrival at the shelter, Mrs. Maxwell was given a tour by a flood victim who piloted a tiny metal boat along the route of a highway as she and other volunteers ducked telephone lines and traffic lights that hung only a few feet above the water.
When they reached the victim's house, all they could see was the roof above the water.
While many were philosophical about their losses, others were devastated, Mrs. Maxwell recalled.
A young couple with two toddler children told her they recently moved from a lowland area to a highland area to avoid flooding. Shortly after their new home was built, many miles from any river bank, it was submerged beneath the waters of the Mississippi. "They wanted to just give up," Mrs. Maxwell said.
BShe said that each time she visits a disaster site she tries to be tough, but it's not always easy. "It affects you," said Mrs. Maxwell, tears pooling in her eyes. "But in the end you end up being grateful -- just glad no one was injured, just glad it wasn't your home. You can't help but feel sorry for them."
In addition to making cross-country visits, Mrs. Maxwell works three days a week at the Red Cross in Glen Burnie, visiting local disaster sites such as house fires and chemical spills.
She said she brings home a significant experience with each disaster visit. From the Midwest she said she learned how "people, neighbors and families and the government, too, can pull together. I noticed a real sense of cooperation, not exaggerated on television."
And she said she has developed a philosophy.
"You can't outguess Mother Nature," Mrs. Maxwell insisted. "We can build all the fancy levees we like but you can't hold back its wrath."