Judy McDarris, a Victim/Witness Assistant at the Lynchburg Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney, returned home from the Gulf Area after spending eight days aiding in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. Ms. McDarris, along with six other Victim/Witness Assistants, was a part of the Virginia Nova team. The Nova team was deployed to Ocean Springs, Mississippi, with Ms. McDarris specifically assigned to a Disaster Recovery Center in Moss Point, Mississippi.
In Moss Point,
Ms. McDarris put her many years of victim/witness experience to good use,
helping many elderly victims navigate the complicated FEMA application
process. She also offered a listening ear for many victims who were still
dealing with the emotional trauma of their loss. When describing her daily
activities, Ms. McDarris said, “Many
times, I sat with an individual for hours as they waited, listening to them
tell their story, giving them encouragement, and wiping some tears away.”
Ms. McDarris and her co-workers would then give the victims local FEMA
referrals, along with hugs and a pat on the back. The hours in Mississippi
were long--sometimes lasting from 5 a.m. until 9 p.m.--but the local
residents were appreciative of the efforts from the visiting Virginians.
Looking back on her experience, Ms. McDarris said, “Everyone kept their
spirits up. Even though we were exhausted by the end of the day, we still
had a good feeling that we'd helped someone.”