It has been truly difficult to watch the devastation and aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Within a couple-hour drive of our Texas ranch and home, more than 50 have died, 30,000 are homeless, and estimates to restore Harvey’s catastrophic damage are upward of $190 billions. Recovery will span months and even years.
There’s no way to adequately express the condolences of my wife, Gena, and myself for the losses. Along with millions of other Americans, we’ve done what we can to help, including Gena working with the National Guard and FEMA to deliver pallets of our C-Force bottled water for disaster relief.
If you haven’t had a chance to help, anyone interested in making a financial donation to Salvation Army for Hurricane Relief can do so online (CLICK HERE) or by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY (725-2769).
If there’s a silver lining in this torrential tragedy, it is definitely the fact that Americans have dropped their differences and come together to help. So many ordinary Americans have shown extraordinary acts of heroism to rescue others.
You’ve heard so many amazing stories by now. Let me list just a few.
I will never ever forget the images of the Houston pastor who waded around the city in chest-deep water checking cars to see if anyone needed rescuing.
Or what about the myriad of Texans who used their boats and other watercraft to bring others to safety?
Or what about the sheriff’s deputy in Cypress, Texas, who rescued two small children from their home as the floodwaters rose?
Or what about the man who walked through waist-high waters, cradling a mother in his arms while she was cradling her baby in her arms?
Or what about the multiple news crews that stopped to save hundreds of people flagging them down for help?
Or who can ever forget the 18 senior citizens in waist-high floodwaters in their old folks home who were among the thousands rescued by first responders from all over our country because of posts notifying them on social media?
Unlike Hurricane Katrina, where animals were often left behind, Texas police officers and civilians even rescued hundreds of cats, dogs, cattle and more from Harvey’s catastrophic consequences.
Most moving to me, however, were these last few examples.
What about Sgt. Steve Perez, the 34-year veteran Houston police officer who was swept away in the floods when trying to find an alternative route to report for duty? Despite his wife urging him to reconsider going, Perez’s last words were: “I’ve got work to do.”
And what about Colette Sulcer, the 41-year old mom who drowned while holding up her 3-year-old daughter in the flood so she would be saved?
What do all of these heroic acts have in common? Human courage, sacrificial love and a unifying spirit that drops differences and embraces humanity as one, with the common goal of helping others.
There is no greater example of that than the human chain that was created to save an elderly man who was being swept away in his car by Harvey’s floodwaters. People of all diverse backgrounds linked with one another with the aim to help or save someone, which they did.
One person tweeted that it was “one of the most concrete and sublime examples of human solidarity I can imagine.”
A similar human chain was formed to rescue a woman who was in labor and was trapped by the floods.
Maybe, sometime in the years ahead of recovery, a memorial to the heroes of Hurricane Harvey will be erected in some reflected place where statuary of these heroic acts can be displayed and remembered. Immortalizing their images, courage and love will also serve to educate our posterity about the true heart and spirit of America.
Why does it often take crises for us to remember that there’s more that we hold in common than the differences that drive us apart?
In 1861, during his first inaugural address, President Abraham Lincoln spoke these words to a very divided nation like our own: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
Even through a natural disaster like Hurricane Harvey, “the chorus of the Union” has once again resounded through “the better angels of our nature.” And I believe that swell can grow even stronger than Harvey’s floods if only we continue to love our neighbors as ourselves and focus more on the things that unite us than those that divide us.