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In this month's VantagePoints, we reprise an article composed last year in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Whereas suffering from the aftereffects of this prolific rainmaker continues, many in the Houston area owe their lives to the selfless army of volunteers who braved the floodwaters to perform hundreds of rescues.
The countless demonstrations of selflessness during troubled times should serve to remind us that we are all lifted up when we help one another for the sake of the common good, without regard for any perceived difference.
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Reflections of Harvey: How the worst of nature brought out the best in mankind
Author John Steinbeck once commented, "Texas is a state of mind." Never was that state of mind more unified and dedicated toward good than in late August 2017, when Hurricane Harvey stalled over southeast Texas and dumped several billion gallons of rain over the Houston area in what turned out to be the worst downpour in recorded U.S. history.
Rather than wait for overstretched government agencies to come to the rescue, Houstonians from every walk of life sprang into immediate action to save hundreds of victims in peril of drowning from the ever-rising floodwaters. Reminiscent of the movie "Dunkirk," the images of a vast flotilla of every type of private vessel-from canoes, to bass boats, to airboats-going street to street in search of strangers in need of rescue left an indelible impression on millions who tuned in to live news accounts.
In Montgomery County, north of Houston, members of a monster truck club braved the swift overflow of the San Jacinto River to remove scores of trapped residents from their homes and relocate them to high ground. One monster truck even pulled a stuck National Guard vehicle to safety.
The help was not limited to local citizens, either. A large group of boaters from Louisiana, calling themselves "The Cajun Navy," arrived early on and was responsible for countless high-water rescues. Rescuers also heeded the call from other states such as Oklahoma, Arizona, California, Wisconsin, Michigan, and New York. It was a refreshing and uplifting demonstration of Americans rising to the occasion to help their fellow Americans in their moment of need.
Makeshift field kitchens manned by caring cooks and helpers sprang up everywhere evacuees were being staged, in order to feed the victims and the responders. And convoys of buses and vans relocated thousands of the displaced from the staging areas to area shelters.
As the floodwaters receded, an army of Good Samaritans descended upon neighborhoods throughout the area to help begin the process of recovery and reconstruction. Citywide, churches sent out teams of volunteer workers to tear out waterlogged carpet and remove wet sheetrock for overwhelmed and grateful homeowners, many of whom were physically unable to do such laborious work.
Hurricane Harvey cost 82 people their lives, and some 21,000 families were displaced. Estimates indicate as many as 200,000 homes were damaged by Harvey in the Greater Houston region, and as many as 500,000 cars were submerged in its floodwaters. The emotional impact of these numbers cannot be adequately gauged, and the aftereffect will be felt by many for the remainder of their lives.
One thing that is certain, though, is that the death toll would have been much higher had the very worst of nature not brought out the very best in mankind. Ordinary civilians rose to the occasion and saw each individual as someone in need and worthy of salvation. If only our nation could harness and exhibit such goodness in all things, how much better would we be?