How a City Came Together
It was unimaginable. People are calling it “historic” and “unprecedented.” Over a five-day period in late August 2017, Hurricane Harvey dumped 50 inches of water on Houston and its suburbs. An area containing almost half the state’s population was underwater, with no way to evacuate, and no end in sight. Yet in spite of these devastating circumstances, this event gave us the chance to show the world the spirit of Houston..
When the rain let up and people could finally see the extent of the devastation, magic happened. All of the freeways entering and exiting Houston were under water. This water level made it impossible for emergency vehicles to get to the people. With tens of thousands of people stranded, it was up to the people of Houston to rescue their neighbors. Houstonians rose to the challenge, grabbing every type of flotation device they could to get out into the neighborhoods and communities that were flooded to rescue people. In addition to boats, canoes and kayaks, I even saw people floating in kids swimming pools, gathering up their neighbors and getting to dry ground. When possible, those without boats used their own pickups, dump trucks, construction vehicles and high water trucks to rescue people. The TV stations directed rescue efforts, while our mayor encouraged people to keep helping. The sprit of Houston shone in this time.
Soon people started pouring in from surrounding communities. The people of Louisiana were here before the storm was even over, bringing their “Cajun Navy” and the knowledge they gained after Katrina. Having lived through this horror themselves, they vowed to do all they could to prevent the same level of catastrophe here. We thank, once again, the people of Louisiana for their help and quick response.
During this time, I was fighting to prevent flooding in my own house. After securing my home, I jumped in with the rescue efforts. I saw police and emergency vehicles come from around the state and surrounding states, helping the people of my city evacuate. Seeing this first hand changed me in a way I cannot put into words.
Throughout these rescue efforts, there was no chaos, yelling or panic. People patiently waited for rescue, while rescuers banded together with complete strangers and no real leadership to get people out of the water and to dry ground. As a realtor, I had the advantage of knowing what areas were more likely to have high water. This allowed me to help the drivers navigate the flooded communities to get to the people that needed help, without risk. When we found stranded people, they greeted us like relatives with smiles and hugs. These are people who had lost everything, their homes, their possessions, and even their livelihood, yet they greeted us warmly. Once in safety, many of the younger people we rescued jumped right in with the rescue efforts. Rather than looking for a warm place to sleep and a meal, they looked for a way to help.
I also saw Social Media playing a huge role in these rescue efforts. When emergency phone numbers were overwhelmed, families were posting on social media that they were stranded, and we were able to find them. I spoke to one family who tried to call 911 over 50 times, as well as the Coast Guard. Getting no response, they posted on Facebook, and within an hour were rescued. A stranger who happened to have a high water vehicle read their post and got them out. This happened over and over again.
Hurricane Harvey gave Houston the chance to show the world what makes our city great. We are a community with people who love each other, even strangers, and have a strong work ethic. This is the spirit of Houston, and it will get us through the days after Harvey. Houston will continue to be a welcoming, friendly community where you can build the American dream surrounded by people and a community that will support you.