November 6, 2005: Headlines: COS - Macedonia: Hurricane Relief: Providence Journal: Macedonia RPCV David Morsilli awed by havoc in Mississippi

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Macedonia: Peace Corps Macedonia: The Peace Corps in Macedonia: November 6, 2005: Headlines: COS - Macedonia: Hurricane Relief: Providence Journal: Macedonia RPCV David Morsilli awed by havoc in Mississippi

By Admin1 (admin) ( - on Wednesday, November 09, 2005 - 9:09 pm: Edit Post

Macedonia RPCV David Morsilli awed by havoc in Mississippi

Macedonia RPCV David Morsilli awed by havoc in Mississippi

The stress of shelter management is far greater than handling bulk distribution, he says, "and I mean some days, I feel like I've gotten older on the inside. You just do, and you feel like, 'Wow, that was a rough day.' "

Macedonia RPCV David Morsilli awed by havoc in Mississippi

R.I. relief worker awed by havoc in Miss.

Shaped by the death of his younger brother at the hands of a drunken driver 22 years ago, David Morsilli says his desire to help others has been affirmed by his work with victims of Hurricane Katrina.

01:00 AM EST on Monday, November 7, 2005

Journal Staff Writer

Everyday people joined David Morsilli's platoon. They left behind their stay-at-home lives and kids' soccer matches, their warehouse jobs, their executive boardrooms, their post-college angst. They convened in coastal Mississippi's ruined landscape, to restore order where there was only chaos.

Hurricane Katrina had hit Mississippi dead-on. And even Morsilli, who has trained extensively in disaster relief and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Macedonia, was overwhelmed by the destruction.

"You look and you look. You see huge buildings that are wiped out. Maybe there's a concrete frame, but everything that was inside was just washed right through." Where there were homes and neighborhoods, "there's nothing."

Morsilli, 37, whose parents live in Warwick, signed up for a three-week volunteer stint with the American Red Cross after Hurricane Katrina hit.

Three weeks turned into two months, and a paid job with the Red Cross. After a five-day break spent at home in Rhode Island, Morsilli returned Friday to Mississippi to work on longer-term recovery efforts.

"A lot of people, when they stop seeing the pictures on television, they think it's back to normal. And it's far from that," says Morsilli. "It's so not over yet. The rebuilding effort will take years in southern Mississippi."

The rebuilding effort will also require people trained to stay cool under duress, be quick on their feet, and work with volunteers of every stripe.

"I have always known I wanted to do relief work since I was young," he says. "Now I'm very sure, without a doubt, this is what I should be doing."

THOUGH MORSILLI is clearly uncomfortable with the subject, he says the death of his younger brother, Todd, a 13-year-old tennis champ who was killed by a drunken teenage driver in 1983, sharpened his own focus.

"Having his life robbed from us made me want to realize the most out of mine," says Morsilli. "I don't want to look back [with regrets]. So I think sometimes, certain life experiences give you a perspective."

Morsilli's first job out of college was working as a scheduler and go-to man for then-Gov. Bruce Sundlun, "who never took 'no' for an answer."

"Anytime he needed anything, he would yell out to me. Whether it was tracking down some lawyer friend of his in San Francisco or New York," or getting presidential Cabinet members on the phone, "you had to be as resourceful as possible," he says with a chuckle.

The three years that Morsilli spent in the private sector after that were financially fruitful, "but not as rewarding."

Four years ago, he took disaster relief training with the Red Cross that included mass sheltering operations and mass feeding.

Then he signed up for the Peace Corps. He worked for the mayor of an Albanian village, establishing a citizen information office in a society where informing citizens had not been a priority.

Morsilli returned from the Peace Corps last December; this spring, he took a three-month certificate course at his alma mater, Boston University, called "Managing Disasters and Complex Humanitarian Emergencies."

Lecturers came from national and international relief organizations, "people who had worked for years in the Sudan, or in Indonesia" after the tsunami, relief-worker veterans of wars, droughts, floods and holocausts.

Then, Katrina howled through the Gulf Coast. Morsilli boarded a plane.

HE SPENT two days troubleshooting at Red Cross shelters near Montgomery, Ala., then was was reassigned to Gulfport, Miss.

Managers were in short supply, so he was asked to handle bulk distribution -- getting food, water, toiletries, mops and bleach to ravaged communities, many of them isolated.

"It was myself and one assistant. They gave me 75 trucks and two people per truck, which is 150 people, and they said, 'You have to deploy them to all the areas of southern Mississippi.' They gave me a map."

He divided the map into grids and numbered them 1 to 87, then dispatched one truck to each of the grids. He also asked them to provide feedback.

"There were no cell phones working, so I had no clue" what conditions were in those areas. "And as the drivers came back and gave me feedback from the field, I was able to reallocate resources where they were needed."

He notes that there were "all different types of personalities, and to manage that, you had to be very firm. There's no gray area. It's black and white. 'These are the assignments; please just do the assignments.' "

"It's like, 'David, I can't find this street on the map.' I said, 'If you plan on being out in the field, you have to learn how to read a map. And there you go.' I was always very pleasant . . . if you do it with the right tone, and the right manners," he says, "you can get away with it."

Only one querulous volunteer, who, Morsilli discovered, "was a former state senator," managed to push his buttons.

The volunteer "was upset one day that we didn't have Gatorade. That was the only time I lost it with anybody. I said, 'We're in the middle of a disaster relief situation and you're mad because we don't have Gatorade?' " Morsilli says with a laugh. "I mean, think about it."

MORSILLI PLANS to resume where he left off -- taking charge of six Red Cross shelters near Gulfport, where some 525 people remain. He will probably be there for up to six months.

The people in the shelters "are at a standstill in their life. They're in limbo. There's no normalcy whatsoever. Their children aren't going to school. There are 150 cots spread out in a room. There's no privacy. You have people from all walks of life . . ."

Most people are respectful of each other, "but it only takes the five to ten percent" of those who are not to cause problems. Disruptive clients get ejected. Safety is paramount: if weapons are found, the police are called in.

The stress of shelter management is far greater than handling bulk distribution, he says, "and I mean some days, I feel like I've gotten older on the inside. You just do, and you feel like, 'Wow, that was a rough day.' "

Sometimes, for example, if the truck drivers complained that there weren't enough supplies, "I'd say, 'You have to focus on what you are able to do every day, not what you can't. We have an awful lot of stuff we send out on the trucks every day, and that's really helping these people."

Morsilli would tell them, "Don't take your eye off the ball. Is it perfect? No. But life isn't perfect. It is what it is."

Karen Lee Ziner can be reached at 277-7375, or kziner [at]

When this story was posted in November 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

Contact PCOLBulletin BoardRegisterSearch PCOLWhat's New?

Peace Corps Online The Independent News Forum serving Returned Peace Corps Volunteers
Peace Corps at highest Census in 30 years Date: October 22 2005 No: 745 Peace Corps at highest Census in 30 years
Congratulations to the Peace Corps for the highest number of volunteers in 30 years with 7,810 volunteers serving in 71 posts across the globe. Of course, the President's proposal to double the Peace Corps to 15,000 volunteers made in his State of the Union Address in 2002 is now a long forgotten dream. With deficits in federal spending stretching far off into the future, any substantive increase in the number of volunteers will have to wait for new approaches to funding and for a new administration. Choose your candidate and start working for him or her now.

Top Stories and Breaking News PCOL Magazine Peace Corps Library RPCV Directory Sign Up

Military Option sparks concerns Date: September 13 2005 No: 731 Military Option sparks concerns
The U.S. military is allowing recruits to meet part of their reserve military obligations after active duty by serving in the Peace Corps. Read why there is opposition to the program among RPCVs. Director Vasquez says the agency has a long history of accepting qualified applicants who are in inactive military status. John Coyne says "Not only no, but hell no!" and RPCV Chris Matthews leads the debate on "Hardball." Avi Spiegel says Peace Corps is not the place for soldiers while Coleman McCarthy says to Welcome Soldiers to the Peace Corps. Read the results of our poll among RPCVs. Latest: Congressman John Kline introduces legislation to alter the program to remove the Peace Corps as an option for completing an individual’s military enlistment requirement.

Why blurring the lines puts PCVs in danger Date: October 22 2005 No: 738 Why blurring the lines puts PCVs in danger
When the National Call to Service legislation was amended to include Peace Corps in December of 2002, this country had not yet invaded Iraq and was not in prolonged military engagement in the Middle East, as it is now. Read the story of how one volunteer spent three years in captivity from 1976 to 1980 as the hostage of a insurrection group in Colombia in Joanne Marie Roll's op-ed on why this legislation may put soldier/PCVs in the same kind of danger. Latest: Read the ongoing dialog on the subject.

'Celebration of Service' a major success Date: October 10 2005 No: 730 'Celebration of Service' a major success
The Peace Corps Fund's 'Celebration of Service' on September 29 in New York City was a major success raising approximately $100,000 for third goal activities. In the photo are Maureen Orth (Colombia); John Coyne (Ethiopia) Co-founder of the Peace Corps Fund; Caroline Kennedy; Barbara Anne Ferris (Morocco) Co-founder; Former Senator Harris Wofford, member of the Advisory Board. Read the story here.

PC apologizes for the "Kasama incident" Date: October 13 2005 No: 737 PC apologizes for the "Kasama incident"
The District Commissioner for the Kasama District in Zambia issued a statement banning Peace Corps activities for ‘grave’ social misconduct and unruly behavior for an incident that occurred on September 24 involving 13 PCVs. Peace Corps said that some of the information put out about the incident was "inflammatory and false." On October 12, Country Director Davy Morris met with community leaders and apologized for the incident. All PCVs involved have been reprimanded, three are returning home, and a ban in the district has since been lifted.

Top Stories: October 10, 2005 Date: October 9 2005 No: 727 Top Stories: October 10, 2005
Carl Pope says the looting of America has only begun 2 Oct
Report of PCV Misconduct in Zambia 7 Oct
Chic Dambach speaks in Oklahoma 6 Oct
Murphy to give papers to Heinz museum 6 Oct
Mike Honda speaks out on Katrina 5 Oct
Kinky Friedman could be the next governor of Texas 5 Oct
Peter McPherson urges new nuclear weapon designs 5 Oct
Doyle and Green in dead heat for Wisconsin Governor 5 Oct
NPCA Membership Directory ready in late November 5 Oct
GOP hopefuls avoiding Taft 4 Oct
Ask not 4 Oct
Russell Carollo wins journalism prize for "The Toll of War" 4 Oct
Mark Gearan says provision was a mistake 4 Oct
Mike Tidwell says Bayou has been sinking for years 3 Oct
Carl Pope writes: Preparing for Global Warming 3 Oct
Director Vasquez Meets with Volunteers in Gulf Coast 3 Oct
John McCain's call to service 3 Oct
Joshua Berman wins Lowell Thomas Travel Writing Award 2 Oct
Operation Offset proposes freeze in Peace Corps Funding 1 Oct

Returned Volunteers respond to Hurricane Katrina Date: September 12 2005 No: 729 Returned Volunteers respond to Hurricane Katrina
First and foremost, Give. Then volunteer with the Crisis Corps. Carol Bellamy says "In situations such as this one, money is needed the most" and added that Hurricane Katrina's impact on New Orleans is comparable to last year's tsunami. Thailand RPCV Thomas Tighe's Direct Relief International has committed an initial $250,000 in cash to assist hurricane victims. Mayor Tom Murphy (RPCV Paraguay) says Pittsburgh is ready to embrace refugees from devastated areas. Brazil RPCV Robert Backus is among the first Vermont doctors to volunteer to travel to Louisiana to treat victims. Latest: FEMA requests RPCVs to assist in recovery efforts through the Crisis Corps and the Peace Corps hopes to send 400 RPCVs to the Gulf Coast for short term assignments to assist victims with their applications for federal aid.

The Peace Corps Library Date: March 27 2005 No: 536 The Peace Corps Library
Peace Corps Online is proud to announce that the Peace Corps Library is now available online. With over 30,000 index entries in 500 categories, this is the largest collection of Peace Corps related stories in the world. From Acting to Zucchini, you can find hundreds of stories about what RPCVs with your same interests or from your Country of Service are doing today. If you have a web site, support the "Peace Corps Library" and link to it today.

Friends of the Peace Corps 170,000  strong Date: April 2 2005 No: 543 Friends of the Peace Corps 170,000 strong
170,000 is a very special number for the RPCV community - it's the number of Volunteers who have served in the Peace Corps since 1961. It's also a number that is very special to us because March is the first month since our founding in January, 2001 that our readership has exceeded 170,000. And while we know that not everyone who comes to this site is an RPCV, they are all "Friends of the Peace Corps." Thanks everybody for making PCOL your source of news for the Returned Volunteer community.

Read the stories and leave your comments.

Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

Story Source: Providence Journal

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Macedonia; Hurricane Relief


Add a Message

This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.