WAUSAU (WAOW) -- It has been a whirlwind of a year for Kayla Schmidt. She graduated college and landed her dream job at the Marathon County Chapter of the American Red Cross. But perhaps her biggest victory came with her first deployment-an effort to help victims in the South after severe flooding.
"A lot of people who suffered in these floods lost it all in Hurricane Katrina as well," Schmidt said.
Schmidt talks of the resilience of the people she met during her three weeks in Tennessee and Mississippi. Many lost their homes and in some cases their livelihoods. Much of the time they faced changing conditions.
"They had tornados go through in late April and early May. When the really hard tornados hit Tuscaloosa, Alabama, they also hit Smithville, Mississippi and completely wiped out that area," she said. "Almost immediately after the tornados the flooding started."
For most of the time they faced the fear of the unknown.
"They didn't think the levees outside Memphis would hold. They expected Graceland to flood and that would be severe," Schmidt said.
Schmidt worked with Red Cross media liaisons to get the word out on the situation and what was available for help. Even with shelters available that wasn't always the place people turned.
Schmidt said, "If you have a choice you would rather stay with a friend or stay with family. If your insurance will pay for it you'd stay in a hotel."
And, when victims weren't seeking refuge from rising water, Schmidt says the people she met turned to friends and family who'd been there before and would likely be there again.
"There's a sense of pride and a sense of resilience as well as we've lost our home to these floods. We don't know if we'll be able to go back, but it was also just sort of a sense of recovery that it'll be okay. We'll figure this out," she said.
Red Cross volunteers work on an assignment system and are called up by specialty when a disaster strikes.