Hurricane Harvey brought out the best in us

It’s hard to know how to feel.

The events of the past two weeks have been overwhelming. Hurricane Harvey may not have hit Houston directly, but it dumped more than 50 inches of rain on our area. Some places flooded and others were spared. No one was left unaffected by the storm.

As the remnants of Harvey moved out of Texas and Louisiana, we again held our collective breath as the Brazos and other rivers crested at record heights and the swollen Addicks and Barker reservoirs were releasing water into the already flooded Buffalo Bayou.

As the storm was hitting on Aug. 25-26 I felt trapped and helpless. We were reasonably confident that our home in Rosenberg would not flood, even though we are about a quarter mile or less from the Brazos. Still, we huddled inside and watched the endless television news coverage of what was going on around us.

The helplessness set in as we watched countless water rescues from guys with boats and kayaks. The journalist in me knew I should be out there reporting on the storm. After all, if TV can do it how hard can it be? The humanitarian in me wanted to be in the boats pulling people from the flood. That was probably the strongest feeling nagging at me. There were people in need and I wasn’t helping.

I spent the weekend glued to the TV and Facebook. I kept reminding myself that we were trapped on the Island of Rosenberg with all exits flooded. I logged into my work email and posted things online and shared information on Facebook and Twitter as much as I could. I kept telling myself that I was helping and doing good by sharing information, but I knew in my heart that I was just playing cheerleader with the game on the line at fourth-and-goal with just seconds on the clock and no timeouts.

On that Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning we helped a friend move stuff out of her house in anticipation of the pending flood. She had just gotten the house put back together a few months earlier from last year’s flood. It felt good to help but we knew it wasn’t enough for either her or us. Time had run out and we needed to leave before we got trapped.

There we were again, glued to the TV and Facebook with the beginnings of survivor’s guilt taking root. It seems like that’s all we did for days as we learned of friends losing homes and cars, yet being trapped by closed and flooded roadways and unable to get out. By midweek I was able to return to work and Sandy and the boys went to volunteer at Second Mile Mission.

Last weekend we spent two days helping friends clean out homes in preparation for restoration crews to come in and rip out drywall and flooring. It was hard work but probably the most satisfying I’ve done in years. It only helped ease some of the survivor’s guilt. At the end of the day I knew I had my normal life and dry home to return to and somehow it didn’t seem fair. I know there’s a lot of work left to do and you can bet we will be pitching in.

In the meantime, after all the TV coverage and Facebook posts that I’ve viewed, I can’t help but be proud – very proud – of the community we live in. Everyone has pulled together in this storm regardless of race, color, gender, ethnicity or any other factor that we had been bickering over just a few days earlier. Suddenly none of that mattered.

Although this is real life and not a game, I can’t help but feel that there were some real winners – heroes of the deluge. First are the hundreds, perhaps thousands of guys with boats who formed one of the most incredible urban rescue armadas the world has ever seen. Along with them are all of the first responders and members of the National Guard who swept in to the rescue and worked tirelessly for days on end helping people in need.

Other Harvey Heroes include J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans who has helped raise nearly $20 million for hurricane relief and is personally helping load trucks and oversee relief efforts. Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale opened his Gallery Furniture stores as emergency shelters and personally helped care for thousands of displaced people and first responders alike.

Although numerous businesses have aided in the relief effort, none came through like H-E-B. Fleets of trucks loaded with food and supplies were at the ready and moved in just as quickly as conditions would allow. Walmart also stepped up with a $20 million donation for disaster relief.

Locally, I can’t say enough about Bob and Marcie Zlotnik and the Sugar Land Skeeters organization. They opened Constellation Field as an emergency shelter and remained there until the last evacuees left. Despite the ballpark taking a beating, they still played games last weekend to offer some respite for the weary. They went as far as waiving parking fees, drastically discounting ticket prices and making games free for the rest of the season for first responders and flood victims. On top of that, the Skeeters are winning again and have a legitimate chance to make the playoffs!

Ultimately, I think the real winner – the true silver lining in these storm clouds – is the human spirit. It’s unfortunate that it takes a disaster to bring us all together, but it is refreshing to know that the spirit of love and compassion is alive in us all. We are #HoustonStrong, #TexasStrong, #AmericaStrong! That, my friends, feels really good.

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