Despite what the latest headlines would have us believe, the cultural fabric of America doesn’t lie with the talking heads screaming at one another on cable TV and masked hooligans fighting unmasked hooligans over beliefs held by people whose entire number could caucus comfortably in the typical high school football stadium. It lies with men and women who live their lives, earn a living, and try to make life just a little bit better for themselves, their children, and their neighbors.
Hurricane Harvey has brought this spirit to the fore. No nation can possibly provide enough money, equipment, and personnel dedicated to disaster relief. To actually respond to a major disaster requires an organization that basically creates itself. The key to any effort is individuals who inconvenience themselves, with no hope of repayment, in order to help people they don’t know. As Houston was flooded, trapping a population that had been encouraged to shelter-in-place, an armada of privately owned small craft arrived to rescue stranded citizens.
— ABC News (@ABC) August 27, 2017
The governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, said that three thousand National Guard members were helping hundreds of local police and firefighters carry out rescues. Sixteen helicopters and six hundred water vessels criss-crossed the city. Unlike during Katrina, when New Orleans residents were told not to attempt boat rescues on their own, some government officials in Texas were encouraging it. The police department in League City, just south of Houston, put out a call for private citizens with flat-bottom or shallow-water boats to lend a hand. The department was quickly overwhelmed with offers of help.
“We literally have hundreds of names and numbers and not enough manpower to go around,” the department posted, on Facebook. “If we do not contact you please do not think that we do not appreciate your offer. We are simply overwhelmed with the number of offers for help.”
The local ABC affiliate posted video of volunteer motorboats maneuvering around submerged vehicles on a badly flooded street in Dickinson, Texas. A Fox affiliate broadcast video of a volunteer rescue boat that had taken on stranded people in Friendswood, including several small children weighed down by large backpacks, and a woman carrying a baby on her chest.
Offers of assistance poured in from as far away as Philadelphia, but Louisianans, in particular, vowed to help. Bridgers, the Cajun Navy 2016 organizer, and other Baton Rouge-area residents said they remembered how the Texas National Guard mobilized during Katrina, and recalled the donations sent by Texans after last year’s flood. “It’s more of a reciprocal gift of love back to them for what they did for us last year, plus we know they need it,” a Baton Rouge woman who was organizing a supply drive to a Houston church told the city newspaper, the Advocate. “How many times has Louisiana been in the crossfire, and how many times have people from other places helped us?”
But when you cut to the essence, this guy says it all:
— Doug Criss (@newsmandoug) August 28, 2017
This is the image that I hope will become the iconic image of Hurricane Harvey. A guy taking his own time and resources to help his fellow man because it is the right thing to do.