An artist with a new record deal, Todd Shea could never have imagined his life would take such a sudden and dramatic turn.
The guitarist-singer of 15 years was to perform a big gig in lower Manhattan—scheduled fatefully for September 12, 2001.
Like many other Americans, Shea's life would never be the same after 9/11, especially after he went to Ground Zero and volunteered for five days.
"My life changed forever," he said about the first of several disasters that would shake the world over the next decade, and that he would help relieve. "The pursuit of music didn't mean much to me after that."
Most recently, Shea has focused his efforts on helping victims of the devastating floods in Pakistan. On Saturday, Oct. 29, Shea was the guest speaker at "Us Now 2011," a fundraising dinner at the coordinated and sponsored by numerous Silicon Valley non-profits, like OPEN SV, BWB, South Asia Relief, APPNA, DIL SF, and PACC-CA. The fundraiser aimed to look beyond political barriers to provide relief, and successfully raised $140,000.
According to UNICEF, the floods affect 8.1 million people including 2.7 million children. A total of 1.8 million people have been displaced, 2 million are sick, and 1.5 million homes have been destroyed.
"This community, whenever it has been asked the qustion, 'If not us, who?' instead of giving us the dreaded question, 'Anyone else but us,' this community has everytime stood up...and responded 'no one else but us,'" said Umair Khan, who helped organized the evenings collaboration and community engagement theme.
Peppering his speech with Urdu and a few good jokes, Shea explained how he helped in rescue efforts in the Asian tsunami, New Orleans post-hurricane Katrina and Haiti, before hearing about the earthquake that hit Pakistan.
"I never really had any training in disaster relief except the fact that my life's been a disaster," he said with a smile.
The same day he came back from New Orleans was when he got word of the earthquake in Pakistan, which he immediately began to research.
"Here I am in Google country," he said."I googled the number for the Pakistan embassy in Washington and I called them."
They connected him to a team of Pakistani-American doctors who were going to Pakistan aid rescue efforts. After days of jumping through red tape, Shea was in the country helping victims. He and his team went for weeks before finally finding a baby that wasn't injured - something they considered a miracle.
After founding Community Disaster Response Services and Shine Humanity, and now in his forties, Shea continues to travel to the country and had actually left Pakistan three weeks early in order to attend the fundraiser.
He was even able to take his son, a high school student, with him to the region.
"So what did you think of Pakistan? Bunch of terrorists?" Shea said he asked him. "He said, 'No, Dad, they're the strongest people I've ever met in my life.'"