Last week, Hurricane Harvey was headed straight for the Texas coast. The category 4 storm was the strongest to make landfall in the United States since Hurricane Katrina. When it made landfall Friday night, Harvey basically destroyed the town of Corpus Christi and then headed straight for Houston, the nation’s fourth largest country and my hometown, where most of my family still resides.
Tornados ripped through the city. Everything flooded. Levees broke. Cell phone photos and videos showed that lakes and rivers had replaced the roads that used to take me to school, the highways that lead from the airport home to my parents, and the parks where I played with my friends and cousins. There were no traces of my city anywhere. Houston was drowning and there was nothing I could do about it.
Unlike the hurricanes of my childhood, Harvey has brought all forms of hell to the Texas coast. Because of the internet and social media, I know exactly how flooded or damaged my friends’ and families’ homes are. Even though I’m 1,400 miles away, I can share information about road closures, nearby shelters, and emergency evacuations. I can get a hold of my 50+ family members every morning and evening to see how they’ve weathered the storm.
As lucky as I feel to have social media to help from afar, there are no words that accurately capture just how heartbreaking witnessing this destruction has been.
At the same time, Harvey has brought out the best in the people of Texas. Houston icon Mattress Mack offered his furniture stores all over the city as shelters for displaced people AND their pets, sent his delivery trucks out to take people to safety, and provided food and supplies for the National Guard and first responders. Those in safer zones have offered their homes to strangers as refuge. Boat owners requested that their contact information be shared with those needing rescue. People in other Texas cities are buying diapers, medicine, water, and supplies to send to shelters in Houston.
Tuesday was the first day there was a break in the rain. As soon as water receded, countless Houstonians drove to the nearest shelter and donated supplies or volunteered instantly. One local church has even stopped taking donations and volunteers.
Harvey rails on and heads to East Texas and Louisiana on Wednesday, but the strength and love Houstonians have for each other will last long after the storm passes. We could all take a page from my hometown and learn to be more #HoustonStrong. As I write this, the citizens of Beaumont and Port Arthur, Texas are pleading for their lives. If you are able to send help that way, please do.
If you aren’t in the Lone Star State and feel compelled to help, please consider donating to a local Texas charity and not to the Red Cross. Click here for list of organizations that will put your donation to good use long after the Harvey disappears from the national radar, like the Greater Houston Community Foundation, the Texas Diaper Bank, or Austin Pets Alive!