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Surviving Disaster


November 30th  marked the official end of Hurricane Season 2018 with 15 storms in total. Media images of people surrounded by the water-soaked ruins once known as home were heartbreaking. But soon those images were now replaced by new grieving faces. The family members of the victims of the Borderline Bar in Thousand Oaks, CA were struggling to make sense of the actions of the lone gunman who seemingly took the lives of their loved ones at random. There were 12 people killed in total.  Then there was the Carr fire, which occurred shortly afterwards as a result of a camp fire.

Are Disasters and Tragedies the New Normal?

The fire burned for over a month and forced the evacuation of over 35,000 California residents resulting in 88 deaths and over $1 billion in land and property damages. For many of us, the images families driving in slow moving droves through walls of fire is not one that will ever be forgotten.  Then more shootings occurred. Pittsburgh and Kentucky served as an ugly reminder of the hate that has eroded a society that once revered senior citizens and places of worship. This was a revelation that shook the communities of faith across the nation. Then the real shaking began. Earlier this month, many of us viewed the jaw-dropping footage of a natural disaster as it unfolded in Anchorage, AK where a 7.0 earthquake shook helpless residents in their homes, schools and workplaces.

So what does this all mean? Are disasters and tragedies the new normal? And what exactly happens in the aftermath to the millions of victims each year who have suffered losses as a result of either a natural or man-made disaster or tragedy?

Dr. Ricky Dillard, dubbed “The Choirmaster” is the musical director and lead of the New Generation Chorale (aka New G). Ricky is among the countless number of people who have experienced the pain firsthand of what it is like to lose it all.

The highly-celebrated,  Stellar award winner and Grammy nominee received word in 2007 that his newly purchased six-bedroom home had been completely destroyed by fire while he was still on tour. It was then that I met Ricky for the first time in NYC just days after the fire had occurred. Upon hearing the news, I anticipated that interview would be cancelled, but he came to the SiriusXM studios as scheduled, still yet to go home to the devastation that awaited him.

CFU:  How did you first find out your home had been destroyed by fire and what was your initial reaction at the time?

RD: I received a call from my next door neighbor who was a veteran who had been helping me to do some things at the house. I had remodeled the home and he would come over to do quite a bit of things like painting and refurbishing floors and taking care of the lawn. While I was in New York, he and his wife had called me to say…”your house has burned down”.  Then I received another call from a friend, who said”your house is burning and on the news” and that’s how I found out about the fire.

My initial reaction was…it hadn’t sunk in. I was away and did not rush back because I was still in awe. I was still overwhelmed by the news. I might may have returned home 3 days later. Why? Because I didn’t have a place the live. The house had been completely burned down and destroyed and I had nowhere to go.

CFU: It was reported that among the things lost were several irreplaceable items of memorabilia. Can you elaborate on that?

RD: All of my things were destroyed in the fire, Stellar Awards, Grammy nominations, certificates and medallions, music, recordings, records. I lost all of my clothing, I lost choir robes and just all of the furniture and just all of the things that I bought for the house because everything was brand new in the house pretty much and I just know that fires can really destroy everything that you have and it did.

CFU: What were the greatest lessons you’ve learned about yourself and others during this tragedy?

RD: The lesson I’ve learned from this tragedy is to one… have all your business straight as it relates to insurances.  I did have insurance. Another thing I learned is to trust in the Lord through these times. You never know when they will happen to you. I also learned that there are many people who care and many ministries that care….family and friends that care and many people came to my aid when they heard my home had been burned down.

I had been given several benefit concerts because at that time I was living in two cities in Chicago and Atlanta. They all came together and gave me a benefit concert. There were also others like Benedict College from South Carolina who came together to help me. There were people calling from all over the world to lend their helping hand in my time of need and I thank God for his grace and for how He is a provider.

He turned my situation around and within one month or two months and I was now living on the Northside of town and had moved into a very nice place where I could restore and rebuild.

CFU: Since your own personal tragedy many others have become victims of newsworthy man-made and natural disasters. What helped you get past the devastation of the loss? What advice would you give to those who have experienced sudden life tragedies?

RD: Again, I had much support from close friends and family. Luckily, at the time of the fire I was in Canada. I then left Canada and headed to Chicago and from Chicago I went to New York. The house actually burned down when I got to New York but I had a week’s worth of clothing with me because I had packed a very big suitcase because of my recording session.

But what really helped me get passed the devastation was the benefit concerts. There were friends and families as well as churches who were supportive and not only that I had the Word of God that had been written in my heart that in times of trouble The Lord would be a hiding place and would be a  pavilion and a safe haven and truly He was.  From that day in 2007 to 2018 I am restored and revived and have rebuilt the things I’ve lost.  God turned it around and gave me double for my trouble.

If you trust in The Lord with all your heart and lean not to thine own understanding and in all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your path. God Bless.




(Provided courtesy of a  dedicated staff member from the American Red Cross).

Help provided to disaster survivors is tax-deductible. Assistance is always needed and appreciated.


How to Prepare for Emergencies – Be “Red Cross Ready”:


Individual Safety Pages

Each one of these pages provide information on what to do before, during and after a disaster event. I’ve provided a small selection. Last link in this section is the main page to access all. Remember, disasters are not just the large events such as hurricanes and tornados. A home fire is a disaster to the people involved.

Home Fire Safety:

Flood Safety:

Tornado Safety:

Earthquake Safety:

Wildfire Safety:

Main Types of Emergencies: There are more than 20 different disaster events – natural and man-made:

Mobile Apps:

The Red Cross also provides free Mobile Apps on everything from First Aid to individual events such as Hurricanes and Earthquakes. IMO, the ideal collection of apps to have on your phone are:
  • Emergency (an all-inclusive app lets you monitor more than 35 different severe weather and emergency alerts, to help keep you and your loved ones safe.)
  • First Aid (provides instant access to information on handling the most common first aid emergencies.)
  • If you have children – Monster Guard (For kids aged 7-11. This app teaches preparedness for real-life emergencies at home)
  • If you have pets – Pet First Aid (Be prepared to help your furry friends with veterinary advice for everyday emergencies.)


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