Houston and the Harvey Recovery
A short time ago Hurricane Harvey smashed its way into Texas becoming the first Atlantic hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. since 2005. Harvey was the wettest tropical cyclone on record to have hit the U.S. and the increased waters caused by the Hurricane quickly overwhelmed the city of Houston’s flood failsafes and caused the flooding and evacuation of hundreds of thousands of homes.
While the damage from wind and rain was, and is, catastrophic and the lives of many have been permanently changed forever - the city of Houston and the state of Texas have once again shown the grit and determination that made our republic legendary in years past. Relief concerts are scheduled, events are planned, and already heroic efforts are being taken to restore the area to its former state.
The Damage Left Behind
The damage left behind by Harvey is hard to accurately account for. While a monetary number will likely be decided upon in the coming months, it is the unknowable toll in human capital that really makes this event a tragedy. Not only do the lives lost leave a large cloud hanging over the cleanup efforts, the material possessions lost - especially the momentos that signify important events in the lives of others- add an unknowable cost to the disaster that is Harvey. Houston and Texas will recover, and likely be stronger for it, but that does not soften the blow that comes from watching your neighbors truly endure a hardship you have no solution for.
More tangibly speaking, the greater Houston area suffered considerable damage and it will take a good chunk of time before the majority of lives in the area are able to find some sense of normalcy. As CNN summarized it so well :
“For some communities, it was the wind that did the damage. For others, it was the flooding from the massive rains. And for some, who had seemed to dodge both those bullets, it was a surprise late attack from rivers overflowing with the floodwaters...No matter how the destruction rode in, how different the damage was, the devastation was deep and severe.”
We will all live with the scars of this event in one way or another. What I truly believe, however, is that there is something truly special about not only our community, but the people that inhabit it and their tenacity when it comes to overcoming hardships thrown their way.
The Spirit of Houston
Once the initial shock that such natural disasters bring subsided, and an accounting of the damage was done, it was the spirit of the local people and those from all over the United States that came to help that provided the most moving and memorable element to this entire event. Natural disasters come and go, and the only thing we know for sure about them is that another one will arrive- what is much less sure is how your community will handle a crisis and whether they will decide to either come together or fracture in a bid for self-preservation.
The pride that comes from knowing your community and country still falls firmly onto the side of community assistance and togetherness is something that is hard to explain - especially since it is hard to know that the desire for such a thing even exists before such an event. Suffice to say I am beyond proud of what I have seen from my brothers and sisters in the Houston area.
In wasn’t only Texans who faced down the storm and its aftermath, individuals from all over came to help. One of my favorite accounts is a series of emails from Cal State Fullerton’s emergency preparedness coordinator Sue Fisher. She was on hand in the aftermath of Harvey and kept a journal (series of emails) about what she saw and did. Some excerpts:
“You see so much hardship, but so much kindness too. One stop yesterday was in a primarily Spanish-speaking area. Younger men were helping older neighbors carry stuff ... I’m exhausted by the time I crawl into bed, but satisfied that we helped some people.”
“...a little community center-turned-help center for people in this rural area. Everyone seemed to know everyone, and everyone had some story about what got flooded... They are probably the glue in normal times and the “super glue” in times of need. It’s amazing to witness the strength of their characters and the enormous generosity of their hearts.”
That second quote was referring to these groups of women helping to organize and run the community centers and churches that were staging areas for relief for many of the rural communities. What stuck out to me was the line “Glue in normal times, Super Glue in times of need” This may possibly be one of the best descriptions of how I will forever look at my community and the people of Texas.
More Work to be Done
While it may take more than a single storm to overcome the spirit of Houston, there are still many people out there who can use a helping hand. While a number of fundraising events are scheduled and currently being held, it is not yet enough. Entire homes were lost, and lives were destroyed - these are the types of losses that individuals and families may take decades to recover from - but they don't have to do it alone.
If you are looking to help out here is a list of trusted charities and organizations that are currently helping out and asking for donations:
● The Houston Food Bank and the Food Bank of Corpus Christi
● The South Texas Blood and Tissue Center has a list of donor locations.
● the Houston Humane Society is actively assisting pets and other animals.
● There is also the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund - organized by Houston’s mayor.
While these are simply the ones I know to be honest locations that need your help, there are still plenty of others out there.
Thank you and god bless Texas.