Three Stories Celebrating 100 Years of Red Cross in Central Texas

The only time she had seen a tornado was when she was watching the Wizard of Oz. The Red Cross helped her prepare for the one that hit her home in Arlington.

By Joy Diaz & Swathi NarayananMarch 7, 2016 12:26 pm

Paula Haley, 70, traveled to Vietnam in 1968, armed with a trunk and her Red Cross uniform. She was one of two people from Texas selected as a Red Cross recreation aid during the war.

Haley vividly remembers one incident: she was traveling via helicopter with a soldier. The soldier walked to the back of the helicopter instead of walking away from the blades. “As soon as his body hit the blade, his body went in one direction and his arm went in the other direction,” Haley says.

She jumped out of the helicopter to help him. Even though the soldier lost his arm, he lived.

This year marks the 100-year anniversary of the Red Cross in Central Texas. The non-profit humanitarian organization has sent volunteers all over the word to provide aid. Haley and two others shared their experiences with the Standard.

Yama Ploskonka grew up in Bolivia. His uncle fled to Switzerland from the socialist regime in Czechoslovakia without telling his family where he went. His father contacted the Red Cross in Switzerland, and they were able to locate his uncle.

“Dad contacted his brother, and in his old age, he takes care of a pond of trout,” Ploskonka says. Today Ploskonka lives in Austin and has signed up to volunteer with the International Services department of Red Cross’ Central Texas chapter.

When Theresa Citarella moved to Arlington, Texas, from New York, the only time she had seen a tornado was when she was watching the Wizard of Oz. Citarella says she met with Red Cross volunteers at a safety fair in her son’s elementary school 10 days before a tornado hit Arlington in March of 2000.

After talking to Red Cross volunteers, she converted her closet into a safe room. When the tornado warning came into effect, Citarella and her children took cover in the closet.

“No sooner did I get them in there, that’s when glass was breaking and debris was hitting the house,” Citarella says. Once the tornado had passed, Red Cross helped her rebuild. “My daughter lost her bicycle in the tornado, and one of the Red Cross volunteers showed up with a bicycle,” she says.