Hurricane_October2017

Many of us who saw Hurricane Harvey’s power will never forget images of the storm’s staggering toll. Yet, we’ll also remember Harvey’s heroes — both first responders and ordinary residents. Their extraordinary actions provided both desperately needed aid and powerful inspiration as the crisis unfolded.

The inspiration still resonates.

One of the scenes touching me the most was the crowd of strangers jumping from their cars and forming a human chain to rescue an elderly Houston man stranded in his flooded SUV. After being carried to safety, the motorist was reunited with his son at a hospital.

To me, the spontaneous human chain was a perfect metaphor for the very best things about Texas. The can-do spirit, kindness shown to others and Lone Star pride and generosity were displayed thousands of ways during Harvey’s worst days. Friends who have come to San Antonio from other states kept saying they thought Texans reacted with more caring and bigheartedness than folks in any other place they have lived. I’ve been here more than half my life and I agree.

There’s a special sense of place here — a Texas state of mind.

It’s the same spirit many of us — whose lives have been touched by natural disasters closer to home — have experienced: Neighbors who brought their boats and canoes in 1998 to waterlogged San Antonio neighborhoods during the 100-year flood, countless San Antonio Food Bank volunteers who respond to area cataclysms, or individual chefs such as Joan Cheever, whose nonprofit The Chow Train has reported to calamities from Bastrop wildfires to a San Marcos deluge, as well as serving thousands of Harvey victims and first responders in Rockport and Port Aransas in August.

Hundreds of unsung individuals, such as San Antonians Carol Hirschi and Bob Jeske, gave their time, gas and money traveling to Rockport, where Hirschi and other San Antonio-area folks helped provide meals with nonprofit Mercy Chefs, while Jeske pitched in with area efforts.

It seemed like everyone statewide wanted to help, and indeed, many did, whether it was making an online donation or getting in a pickup to support the relief effort. Doctors and medical techs, military folks and veterans, animal lovers and volunteer veterinarians, construction workers and couture designers put their figurative oars in the waters and rowed out to deliver boatloads of assistance. Homegrown Texas companies including San Antonio giants H-E-B, Valero, NuStar and USAA sent money, goods and volunteers to stricken regions. Texans came in swarms to help the Food Bank, American Red Cross, The Salvation Army and other nonprofits.

San Antonio sheltered more than 1,400 Harvey evacuees and sent dozens of first responders to help communities hardest hit by the storm. The Alamo City would have been ready – and more than willing — to house many thousands more if the need had arisen, as we did, with open arms, after Hurricane Katrina.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff told me his granddaughter volunteered to comfort evacuees in Houston’s convention center. Almost every Texas family had a story of someone in the path of the flood, and someone reaching out to help others.

Texas is a state full of contradictions, from hard-core cowboys and die-hard hunters to hippies and yuppies, and folks both liberal and conservative. However, in a pinch, we’re all Texans.

“We may not like each other,” Wolff said, “but when disaster strikes, we pull together.”

Amen. Just think what we could accomplish if we always collaborated, like that lifesaving human chain.

syerkes@localcommunitynews.com

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