Josh Lockwood ’93, CEO for the American Red Cross in Greater New York and co-chair of the national LGBT affinity group, is no stranger to disaster and tragedy in his workday. Heading the organization’s efforts within an area that is home to 13 million persons, he estimates that his chapter receives between five and 20 serious incident-calls each day. Red Crossvolunteers also travel to other states to help out. Lockwood recalls his response when the country awoke to the horrific news about the mass shootings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., on June 12, 2016.
“I’ve been on a disaster scene countless times and I’ve met families who have lost loved ones and had terrible moments,” he says. “Just seeing the images on that Sunday morning of what had happened at the Pulse nightclub was particularly affecting…and it seemed to be a moment where, if I could be helpful and play a role, I certainly would want to.
“I have a husband and I have a young son, and so I sat down with them that morning to explained where I was going and what I was doing. Our son is 6 years old, so we couched it for him. Then I headed to the airport—after stopping by our church and saying a prayer.”
Once in Orlando, he settled in at the Family Assistance Center, where the city of Orlando and the Red Cross were partnering to offer information and support to survivors, family and friends.
“It’s an incredibly challenging environment,” Lockwood explains. “We had large extended families, almost exclusively Latino families, huddled together, desperate to hear information. And not one family that was there when I was there received good news. It’s a special kind of person who can stand alongside someone receiving that news. Part of my role there was just to support the caregivers and support our team who was doing this very difficult work.”
Yet in the difficult work and heartbreaking sorrow, Lockwood remembers moments of awe. “I was at a small vigil a day after the shootings. The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Orlando convened a meeting and a young man, Adrian, shared his story: He had been at the nightclub with his husband and their friends. When the shooting started, he thought he had been shot and raced out of the building. When he realized his husband wasn’t with him, he ran back into the club and the gunfire. In those desperate moments inside, he made eye contact with the shooter but couldn’t find his husband. Somehow he got out again. Then, 35 minutes later, as he stood behind a police barrier, he saw a solitary figure limping out of the back of the nightclub and it was his husband, Javier. But none their friends appeared. They all were murdered inside the club. What was so amazing about this young man was that he implored the audience to not act out of vengeance or anger. He kept saying ‘We’re all just people. We all just need to love each other a little bit more.’
“I was so inspired and moved by this young man who had the grace to share his story and a world view that challenged the audience to not react out of revenge and anger but from our better angels. Listening to Adrian helped to temper the confusion and anger that one feels after an attack like this.”
Now back in New York City, Lockwood continues to work with his colleagues in Orlando, hoping to provide some longer term mental health support for Adrian and his husband through the American Red Cross.
Additionally, he offers his reflections on service to the community, which was reinforced through his work in Orlando. “All of us feel the pressures of our busy schedules, between family, friends, and our work, but we all need to make time for something larger than ourselves. When people do engage that way, it enriches their lives and creates something they are proud of and really thrilled to have done. But—it does requires intentionality.”