SALT LAKE CITY — As a Red Cross volunteer, Vern Gillmore can recite some of the relief effort numbers associated with Hurricane Sandy: 7.5 million meals, 3,000 volunteers and 300 emergency vehicles.
The 80-year-old volunteer says that the only number he cares about is the one other person he could have helped on his recent trip to New York.
"Sometimes, I get pretty emotional talking about it," Gillmore said. "…I really have a sincere need to help people."
Gillmore spent two weeks in New York serving meals to storm victims out of the Red Cross vehicle he helped drive from Utah. He saw lots of smiles from people he was helping, but he also saw sights cause for genuine concern.
"Some of them were walking along with the blank stare, and you could tell they were totally shell-shocked," Gillmore said.
He remembers serving meals outside one small shop where the owner lost everything except for a few USA flag patches.
"And he said, ‘Here. I have nothing left but these. I want you to have them.' Wow," Gillmore said.
Of all his memories in New York, that one, he'll always remember, just like how all that mattered was helping people.
"We're one. Most of the people I dealt with didn't, or many of them didn't, speak the same language as I do. And most of them were not the same color as me, and I love every one of them," Gillmore said. "That's what the Red Cross is for."
Gillmore said would like to go back to New York to help. He says he's worried people not affected by Sandy, like Utahns, are going to forget how bad it is out there.