LaFramericaine has been on the job, looking in to the terrible accident that occurred yesterday in California, involving a busload of French tourists. She has asked for help in getting the word out, particularly to folks with ties in California ... that might be able to help.
Since many folks I know DO speak French and have friends throughout the state that also do, I'm asking that you read LaF's update and contacts to consider if there might be something you could do to assist.
She's done much of the heavy lifting in terms of investigating what's going on ... so I'm going to quote much of her update here:
"34 French, 1 Canadian, and 1 American passengers of the Orion Pacific tour bus had a terrible accident on Highway 101 in Soledad, California yesterday as it made its way from the Monterey Peninsula toward Los Angeles. I have just spoken to Paula Herrera, the coordinator, for the Monterey-San Benito chapter of the American Red Cross.:
Monterey-San Benito Counties Chapter
American Red Cross
942 Lupin Drive
Salinas, CA 93906-3910
I called her office earlier today--(831) 375-5730--and left my number and she just called me back after a day that has been non-stop, since 6am, attempting to help the victims of this tragedy.
Currently, there are 6 confirmed deaths. Six French tourists who left France on April 18th for what might have been a dream trip, a trip of a lifetime, an exciting, long anticipated tour of the Left Coast of the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave from which they will never return. Can you imagine the anticipation and delight with which they each set forth a week and a half ago, never knowing that they would end their lives here on, what for us would be, an unremarkable section of Highway 101? I can imagine it only too well.
In addition to the confirmed deaths, there are individuals in hospitals spread out over Monterey, Salinas, King City, San Jose, and Fresno. There is a 12 year old girl--a little French girl who does not speak English--whose mother is in an intensive care unit just trying to stay alive. Caring volunteers are trying to allow them to see one another and keep the child from being taken into custody by Social Services.
There are men and women who are married to one another who are located in different hospitals, in different towns, with different grades of injury. One is going to come out of the hospital and need to go to find his or her loved one, alone, in a foreign country, traumatized, and in need of a friend, someone just to sit in a waiting room with him or her.
There is a father, in a state of panic, no doubt, having to fly from France on the spur of the moment, god protect him from the cost, in order to find his child in a hospital in Fresno. Can you imagine being him? The worry, the stress, the uncertainty, the cultural and linguistic difficulties, never mind the cost. Renting a car? Finding a hotel room? Paying for a hotel room? Talking to a doctor or nurse about a prognosis? Having no one to talk to about his disbelief and emotional distress? Arranging a return?
There are people in the hospital who will be there for weeks, healing and hoping to live a normal life. They are going to need their loved ones to visit them everyday and to talk them through the hard part. There is going to be PTSD.
So, given all that, I beseech you to read about the accident, talk to everyone you know about the accident, write about the accident, raise awareness that we have, suddenly, in our midst a small subset of people with very special needs who just got blindsided by an event that could happen to anyone of us every time we decide to get behind the wheel and go visit Grandma. If you know any French people or Americans with very sturdy French-language skills, call them and ask them to call the American Red Cross in any one of the cities I listed. Ask them to call the San Francisco French Consulate. Ask them to volunteer to help one or several victims of this terrible accident. Their skills and their compassion are sorely needed.
Also, please support your Red Cross. I did not even know that the Red Cross intervened in such events, but they do. Train wrecks, bus wrecks, automobile pile-ups, they are there problem-solving and helping to save lives and/or put shattered lives back together with nothing more than spit and baling wire and your caring, compassionate help.
By the way, the French Consulate has two representatives in Salinas as I type, sorting paperwork, reviewing travel insurance papers, looking for passports, identifying people, relaying information to SF, and fielding questions and trying to protect--along with the Red Cross--the tourists from inquiring eyes in a hotel where they can be with one another. Nevertheless, the French Consulate is not going to do the outreach that is needed to find friends and supporters for the people who are going to be in the hospital for coming weeks, if not months. Please ask yourself what you can do to help and then call up the Red Cross and the SF Consulate and give them your name and phone number and tell them what you are willing to do."