ROANOKE, Va. – As hundreds of people had to be evacuated from Hurricane Dorian's path, one man from Lynchburg hopped on a plane and headed directly into the disaster zone to help.
No matter the natural disaster, Lynchburg native Michael Buscemi answers the call for help. When Buscemi took a mandatory CPR class with the American Red Cross to become a foster parent, he learned about the disaster relief volunteers and jumped at the chance.
Last week, he got the call and hopped on a plane to Florida. Dorian is his seventh disaster.
"I got the call 11 o'clock in the morning and by 1:15 the next day, I was here," Buscemi said.
He was deployed to an evacuation shelter in West Palm Beach to help coordinate the other shelter workers and comfort those forced to leave their homes.
"The Red Cross calls it hugs and handshakes. You'd be surprised how far a little hug goes when a hurricane's barreling down on you," Buscemi said.
Buscemi's one of 17 Red Cross volunteers from Virginia and 1,900 nationwide who were pre-deployed down south, according to Jackie Grant, Roanoke-New River Valley American Red Cross executive director.
"The disaster volunteers are amazing. They're the ones who really go and spend that two-week deployment, leaving their family and going out and helping complete strangers," Grant said.
Even if you can't be there in person, Grant said you can still help by donating money or blood.
Buscemi said the toughest part is leaving the people he meets, even though seeing their suffering takes a toll.
"You're seeing where, you know, entire towns are gone and you have to talk to these people for, you know, 20 hours a day. Sure, it weighs on you," Buscemi said. "But you look at the other end, you're here to help and I get to go back home to my house that's in good shape. So, that part does weigh on you a little bit."
As Dorian's moving up the coast, Buscemi is moving up to Raleigh and getting ready to help wherever the storm hits next.
"The feeling of helping people, there's nothing like it," Buscemi said.
To volunteer or donate, visit the American Red Cross website.