Last Friday afternoon, I was doing what most people in the San Antonio area were doing: making a Costco run, ensuring our portable chargers had juice, locating all the candles, matches and flashlights in our house, and canceling weekend plans. Hurricane Harvey was headed toward the Texas coastline, and like everyone else in town, I was battening down the hatches.
San Antonio is pretty far inland, so severe storm warnings don’t mean the same thing to me that they do to residents of the Texas gulf coast or in cities that sit closer to the shore, such as Houston. We prepared for the worst and hoped for the best, and let’s be honest here: I knew the worst would probably involve a power outage or damage to my house due to heavy winds carrying one of my neighbor’s yard gnomes across our property line. (I’m not trying to make light of things. Hurricanes and tropical storms are no joke no matter where you live, but we don’t face the same kinds of issues that folks closer to landfall have to deal with.)
As it turns out, our lights only flickered once. We were well-stocked and rode out the storm in our pajamas, enjoying uninterrupted internet and cable. When one of my friends posted online about how the full force of Harvey had missed San Antonio by 30 miles, I looked around at my family, safe in my intact home, and counted my blessings. I’ve heard a few grumbles from people who “prepared for nothing” and it makes me angry. I’d like to invite them to air their complaints to the people of Houston or other cities along the Texas coastal bend. To be able to complain that we prepared for a disaster that didn’t happen is a privilege. Honestly, I’d rather put my energy toward being one of the helpers or helping to amplify the message of my fellow Texas that are giving their time, talents, and energy toward helping put our state back together again.
What has been our light over the past few days is the way Texans are coming together to support each other. The way we’re coming together to help our own is inspiring and restores my faith in humanity. There’s the old saying that “everything is big in Texas” — and that extends to people’s hearts, now more than ever. I’m standing just a little bit taller knowing that we’ve got people like this in our corner:
People Getting All the Pets to Safety
This picture of smiling, happy men in the process of rounding up the neighborhood dogs to safety just makes you feel good, right? And what’s even better? People commenting on the post with images of other people doing the same thing.
The Harris County Sheriff’s Office
I don’t have any words to describe this candid picture that someone happened to snap. I only know how it makes me feel, and that this police officer and two small children represent many others.
Chef Tatu Hererra
Tatu Hererra is a chef from San Antonio who is currently in Victoria helping feed people who have been affected by Harvey.
Brazos Valley Twins Club and Bryan Broadcasting
Twin mom Amy Hurley works for Bryan Broadcasting. Together, Bryan Broadcasting and the Brazos Valley Twins Club organized an effort with local radio stations and newspapers to collect supplies to send to local shelters.
Texans Helping Texans in Friendswood
This picture from the Camp Drunken Arrow’s Facebook page shows a camper (Jennifer Long) who has been using her boat to rescue stranded people near Friendswood, Texas with the help of her niece and nephew, Dylan, and Brooke McCrummen.
“This really makes you think twice about your community and the people around you,” says McCrummen. “It doesn’t matter what race or color you are, what language you spoke, what religion you are or who you voted for … when it comes to the dire needs, everything drops. Male, female, transgender, gay, straight, black white…it doesn’t matter. Everyone was there for help.”
Also, the four-minute video recorded by Dylan McCrummen gives some insight into why we risk our lives to help strangers.
Alamo City Moms Support the Texas Diaper Bank
The ladies behind Alamo City Moms Blog, a collaborative website that provides support and information for families in San Antonio, have made the Texas Diaper Bank their project. Alamo City Moms Blog is part of the City Moms Blog Network, which has sister sites in many of the affected areas, including Houston, and most of the contributors know someone who has been impacted by Harvey.
“I saw so many heartwarming stories on the news and social media about people on the ground in Houston and the gulf coast, helping, donating, rescuing,” explains Amanda Raba Gentis, co-owner of Alamo City Moms Blog. “After speaking with some friends here, we were all feeling like we needed to do something tangible and helpful, so we came up with the idea to support the Texas Diaper Bank by selling cute shirts to raise money to provide much-needed help for mommies and babies.”
Volunteers Helping Volunteers
The Junior League of San Antonio is running a collection site for Harvey relief effort. Their members are tirelessly collecting non-perishable food, baby products, and water, as well as feminine hygiene and personal care products. They’re working with recovery and emergency services departments as well as their sister leagues in affected cities to align long-term recovery efforts.
All collections are being transported to the San Antonio Food Bank, which is the central distribution facility for evacuee shelters and recovery efforts in San Antonio.
There are so many stories left untold, as well as so many acts of compassion and heroism that aren’t being photographed, either out of respect for privacy or because people are just too busy doing what needs to be done to stop and snap pictures.
Take San Antonio artist Cristina Noriega, for example. She is the owner of an Airbnb casita that wasn’t booked the week after Harvey hit, and is currently allowing a family of evacuees from Victoria to stay there free of charge.
“They were already stressed about not knowing what they’d come back to at home and couldn’t afford to keep staying at a hotel,” Noriega told Babble, adding that the family had been previously staying at a local motel for $100 a night. “Airbnb has allowed us to earn money and meet new people. Giving back in a meaningful way after Harvey is the cherry on top.”
These stories, these pictures, these people helping other people don’t even begin to scratch the surface of what’s happening here. You might think there’s nothing exceptional about rescue workers doing their jobs, people with boats helping those who are stranded during a flood, or moms collecting diapers. And they’d probably agree with you. They don’t see themselves as the everyday heroes they are — which is the beauty of neighbors helping neighbors.
I’m grateful for my family’s safety and that I don’t have to worry about flooding or clean drinking water. I’m also grateful to my neighbors for being such exceptional and inspiring people. Grateful, but not surprised. This is Texas, after all.