Hello from Houston, Texas. To say the past 10 days have been interesting is an understatement of the highest order. The Gulf Coast from Southern Louisiana all the way to the southern Texas coast has been ravaged by Hurricane Harvey.
Seeing the level of destruction is mind boggling, from the wind, storm surge where it hit land, and from the unbelievable flooding that hit many areas, primarily the Houston area. Houston received over year’s worth of rain in four days. They said the flooding was a 500 year event, but receiving that much rain in four days is a FORTY THOUSAND year event. The only thing missing was Noah’s Ark.
The amount of suffering and damage that Harvey caused is gut wrenching. It pains us deeply to see our neighbors suffering such personal and financial losses.
Yet, through this great tragedy comes great hope. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, Police Chief Art Alvarado, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, and Governor Greg Abbot, have done an amazing job under difficult circumstances. Where we live, Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls has demonstrated amazing servant leadership, rescuing people and pets.
Harris County Meteorologist Jeff Lindner not only did a great job keeping us updated on where the flooding would happen, but because a reluctant celebrity in the process. A GoFundMe page was established to “Send Jeff on Vacation” that raised almost $20,000.00. As a county employee, Jeff couldn’t accept it, so he had it routed to charity.
Watching the coverage on local TV stations was riveting. Our favorite location station is KHOU, the local CBS affiliate. Their studios are located on Allen Parkway, just off Buffalo Bayou, the main source of drainage into the Gulf of Mexico for much of Houston. As the rain from Harvey came in, their studio started to flood. They quickly moved upstairs to their second floor conference room to continue broadcasting. Shortly thereafter, they were given the evacuation order and they scrambled to safety. The only reporter to stay on the air was reporter Brandi Smith, who was reporting live from near the Bush Intercontinental Airport. All she knew was she was the coverage. While streaming live from an elevated roadway, her camera person saw an 18 wheeler drive into deep water and it quickly started entering the cab of the truck. Brandi ran over, yelled at the driver to stay in the cab, it was over 10 feet deep. Yet the water continued to rise and you could see books floating in the cab. Undeterred, Brandi ran out into traffic and flagged down a Harris County Sheriff’s Truck, which happened to be towing an airboat. They quickly put the boat in the water and rescued the guy, with Brandi keeping the driver posted as the boat came to rescue him. I suspect I have socks older than Brandi, yet she and her camera man saved the life of the truck driver. Without the two of them onsite, he would have likely drown. There are hundreds of stories just like these that weren’t caught on live TV, but the point is people were helping people. (You can see her running down the Sheriff’s Truck and the boat rescuing the driver in the pictures above)
We can’t talk about charity without mentioning Houston Texan JJ Watt. JJ started with a $100,000 donation in hopes of raising $200,000. As of this morning, it was $20 million dollars. He may not be from Houston, but he is as Houstonian as it gets. Seeing his leadership in helping Houston is amazing.
For every JJ Watt, there are thousands of unsung heroes helping with the recovery. There is a large shelter at the NRG Center, a large facility used for tradeshows and the Houston Rodeo. The good people at Baker Ridley were able to turn it into a first class shelter in a matter of hours. While checking in to work a shift, there were cops at the gate near the parking lot. When they checked why I was there, I noticed “Laredo Police” on their patch. While inside, I met cops from El Paso and Lubbock, and State Troopers from Wichita Falls. On the way to NRG, I saw an 18 wheeler with “Los Angeles Fire Department” on the door. Inside the shelter, many of the cots included a fleece with the letters “FDNY” stamped on them. The list goes on and on of how people, cities, states, organizations, and countries have chipped in to help.
But the most uplifting part of the recovery has been seeing how people have come together to help others. There are no colors, races, or religions. It’s people helping people. For all the hate that exists in our country right now, it was good to see that hate disappear for good people to help good people.
Sure, there has been controversy over whether certain places should have opened and if some areas received help before others. That’s only natural. But the overwhelming majority has been people helping people. Numerous churches, without being asked to do so, opened their doors to house, feed, and clothe people. Others, assembled crews to go out and help with cleaning out flooded homes, removing drywall, mopping, cleaning, and more importantly loving our neighbors. One church in our community is a ‘one stop shop’ for people to stay, be fed, and clothed. Another on Labor Day, assembled 15 crews of 25 people each, to go out and clean flooded homes. This particular church has a membership of approximately 1200 people, meaning 1/3 of the entire membership came out on Labor Day to help. There are 1000s of other stories just like these.
Houston has a long recovery ahead of her. Mayor Turner has said, it’s not a recovery in months, but in years. Yet, with his great optimism and love for the city, he added “Houston is open for business”.
My point is this; in the face of unspeakable disaster, God allowed people to serve people. So much good has come out of this terrible tragedy. I’m a proud native of the great state of Alabama. Yet, living in Texas for 5 1/2 years, I have become a Texan and a Houstonian. Never have I been prouder to be both.
Please continue to pray and support the recovery from Harvey and come visit Houston very soon, we’re open for business!