OPINION: Everywhere in the past few weeks, we’ve been inundated with scenes of violence that have spread around the country via the media like wildfire. Protests in Charlottesville, VA, Berkeley, CA and to a lesser extent in Boston has many people lamenting “What is Wrong With Our Country?” People on the fringe of our society got more than their share of publicity recently and their message of hate has had its 15 minutes. In a melting pot such as this Republic, there always has been and always will be the haters, the losers who are bent on destroying the fabric of what has always made this country great. Perfect? No. But great nevertheless. What’s Wrong With America? Nothing. Look to Houston.
Now before everyone jumps all over this to remind me of the myriad of problems that we all still face in this country, no one is denying that or saying that because of a natural disaster that they all magically go away. Far from it, but in times like this is when the people of America put aside their petty differences and work towards lifting a hand toward those in need and giving them a hand up.
Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey has dropped a ridiculously, scary amount of rain in the Houston area in less than a week. Some areas are reporting up to 50 inches of rainfall. That is more than we receive here in the New England area in an entire year. To put that into perspective for the people that live in the North, if a storm like that hit say Boston or NYC in the winter time, how much snow would it cause? With an average of 10 inches of snow to an inch of rain, you’d be looking at nearly 42 feet of snow. That is the kind of devastation that the area of Texas is dealing with.
The scenes of the flooding were like a train wreck that you couldn’t take your eyes away from on the news. Areas flooded so quickly people were trapped in their homes, on the roads, and in their workplaces. Many people have died, and sadly that number will continue to rise as the rescue workers still have a very tough job to do and eventually many more unfortunate souls will be found. Perhaps the saddest was that of Houston police officer Sergeant Steve Perez, who tragically died just days short of his 61st birthday while trying to get to his duty station.
On Sunday at around 4 a.m., Sgt.Perez left his home amid torrential rains, his wife begged him not to go due to the danger. “We’ve got work to do,” he told her. After driving for two-and-a-half hours while trying to get to his duty station in downtown Houston, Perez called his commander to say he couldn’t make it in.
Perez then followed protocol and attempted to drive to the secondary station in Houston’s Kingwood neighborhood. When the police took roll call the next morning, he wasn’t there and calling his home, his wife said she hadn’t heard from him since he left the house on Sunday. A quick search found Perez’s body where he drowned in his vehicle after trying to negotiate a flooded underpass trying to get to his duty station.
Everywhere the scenes were the same, Houston’s normally crowded thoroughfares were packed with boats, not cars as rescuers of every ilk, in every conceivable mode of boat transportation rushed in to help their neighbors. Nobody cared if the people driving the boats were black, white, brown, yellow or zebra colored. And the people in the boats were helping their neighbors and many strangers without regard to their color or creed.
One of the more compelling scenes shown on television were that of two men in a large pickup truck towing a boat. In the pouring rain, they pulled under an overpass and began unstrapping their boat. The television reporters asked where they were going. The man stopped and simply said, “We going to save people.”
Indeed the scenes were too frequent to recount every one where civilians, police officers, and National Guard troops were out in the flooded areas and carrying people and many of their pets to safety. Perhaps my favorite image was that of a man on a jet ski that drove it into a woman’s house to rescue her. Kudos to both of them and here’s hoping that both are safe today.
President Trump stated that he didn’t want to visit too soon as to take away from the rescue efforts that were ongoing and will be for several more days. But not wanting to suffer the political fallout that President Bush did during Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana, he flew down to assure the Governor of Texas that Federal aid would be forthcoming and to briefly praise the efforts of the many people working tirelessly in difficult circumstances. And despite an obsession by the media on what the First Lady was choosing as her footwear, he seemed to accomplish that. Trump will have to get Congress to stop the infighting and get some aid packages together for the people of Texas. The rebuild will take years from this disaster.
But this isn’t about politicians or state and government officials. And it isn’t about the mob mentality where hate that wears a white hood or a black mask is trying to tear down everything this country has built or tear us apart. Those losers are right where they need to be, pushed into the shadows where they belong. This about the real people. And those people dropping everything, risking everything to help one another.
That is the America that still exists despite what we’ve been subjected to recently. That is what America is about, not the hate-filled idiots who only want to destroy everything we’ve built in the past 241 years. Sometimes it takes a disaster, natural or man-made to remind us of who and what we are. We had a saying in the military, (and still do) that we don’t see color, only green. No one cared about what color the guy next to you was, you’d risk your life for his and vice versa. The same is going on in Texas right now. The people out there risking their lives to help their fellow Texans? That’s the America I want to live in. And it still exists.
Photos courtesy: Wikimedia