Unity in Diversity: Houston comes together in aftermath of Harvey
Blue skies and sun finally appeared after four days of torrential rain. Hurricane Harvey is finally on his way out from Houston after causing historic and catastrophic flooding, leaving thousands in the city feeling helpless. There are so many ongoing stories of heartache and tragedy, but what makes Texas, and especially this city, so special is the brave and determined hearts of Houstonians. Our immense capacity for humanity and compassion during tragedy is a hallmark of all Americans. People have come together to help one another irrespective of religion, race, or political affiliation.
Houston Developments In Literacy (DIL) Board Member Mona Khan was personally affected by the flood but did not waste a moment in getting out to provide help to those in need. “The situation is insane and I am just doing my bit,” says Mona. She and her family have been helping by purchasing and delivering supplies and clothes to local shelters.
Beauty pageant and 2016 Miss Houston Logan Lester also could not sit back and not contribute. “I was one of the lucky Houstonians that did not get flooded. I was sitting at home watching all the news and I couldn’t stop crying. I love the city of Houston, and I knew I needed to do something so my boyfriend Zack Tafelski and I showed up to the George R. Brown Convention Center (GRB) and were given the task as “runners”. We were assigned as captains and “ran” clothes that were sorted from Hall B to Hall E where items were being distributed. We tried to work as quickly as possible so we could provide people with warm & dry clothes. The scene was very hard to bare as we saw families coming in with wet clothes and a trash bags full of whatever last-minute personal items they could grab. It was truly heartbreaking to see these people who lost everything. At the same time I have never been so proud of the city of Houston. Random people stepped up and took leadership roles to get things done. It was a beautiful sight to see so many Houstonians show up and donate and volunteer long hours to help our fellow neighbors. I have been volunteering every day since. Our city is strong and we will unite together to get through this. We will rebuild our precious city together,” shares Logan.
Meanwhile Miss Houston 2017 First Runner Up Blaine Ochoa is planning to go to the Beaumont Civic Center to drop off items and volunteer. “There are over 600 evacuees there. I am also going to go to the Hamshire Baptist Church. People from all over Southeast Texas have taken refuge in these two places and more,” explains Blaine.
Sugar Land resident Dr. Huma Nawab, along with her children, is helping her fellow citizens by collecting hygienic products, water, and cooked food.
“It’s heartbreaking to see the loss in my city where I grew up but at the same time I am a proud Houstonian. James Parker at Amerapex in our office got flooded but that did not stop him from helping others,” shares Brigitte Kalai.
Organizations are stepping up as well. Tammy Nguyen, Founder of KnowAutism, decided to purchase 25,000 bananas to be delivered to the George R. Brown Convention Center (GRB) (currently a flood relief shelter). They intended to pay for it personally, but North Side Bananas stepped up and donated and delivered all the produce. They also donated 5,000 individually wrapped utensils. “It’s bottled water tomorrow,” says Tammy.
Indo American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Houston and Madras Pavilion Restaurant delivered meals to the GRB as well. Chamber Advisors Dr. Durga Agrawal, University of Houston President Dr. Renu Khator, and Consul General of India Dr. Anupam Ray, have all shown exemplary leadership during this storm. The Consul General of India’s office has set up communication lines for details about the local Indian community for worried friends and relatives in India.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, Judge Ed Emmett, the entire Houston Police Department, and other first responders have done a valiant job of coordinating relief efforts and providing leadership throughout the disaster. Unfortunately, Sgt. Steve Perez, a 34 year veteran with the HPD, lost his life en route to assisting others. A true testament to this hero is the fact that he died in the service of his fellow Houstonians, and he shall never be forgotten.
Finally, the local Media has shown a great deal of courage by not only tirelessly reporting in the absolute worst of conditions, but also by taking action in helping those they reported on. Many of the rescues were aided by live reporters in the field calling attention to the stranded and injured. Reporters such as Miya Shay, Tom Abraham, Rashi Vats, Pooja Lodhia, Rekha Muddaraj, Gina Gaston, Andy Cerota, Britta Merwin, and Dominique Sachse, along with many others, have led the community by providing a constant source of information and words of comfort.
There is a great deal of work ahead to recover from this catastrophic event, but Houstonians, in true Texan-fashion, will persevere and come back stronger than ever before.