Bayou City

Harvey Response Shows, for Once, All Lives Matter

Victor Hoskins, the man who Ray Odom says deserves the props for their rescue efforts, standing in front of his Ford F-250, The Mule — which, Ray says, "suffered major damage due to countless high-water runs."
Victor Hoskins, the man who Ray Odom says deserves the props for their rescue efforts, standing in front of his Ford F-250, The Mule — which, Ray says, "suffered major damage due to countless high-water runs." Photo by Ray Odom
A city once divided by the lines of color. Sides chosen over a statue — shouting matches, “Black Lives Matter!” “All Lives Matter!” — when in reality none of this matters in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Citizens of Houston and surrounding areas have put aside their color, political affiliations and personal beliefs to dedicate themselves, their time, safety and resources to help their fellow man without prejudice. This is our city; this is Houston.

Since we were told to evacuate our building at work last Friday, I’ve seen nothing but folks offering support, prayers, social-media tags for safety check-ins. Hell, even folks I haven’t spoken with in months who live outside of Texas have texted and called with genuine concern for my family.

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Lifestyle/fashion blogger and honorary Texan Safa Ahmad
Photo courtesy of Safa Ahmad
My daughter’s elementary-school teacher called us to make sure we were dry and safe, as she had heard that we were part of the mandatory evacuation area. Friends who are teachers were overjoyed when former students reached out to check on them, and vice versa. What was meant to tear us apart with all of the negativity we received from other states claiming we were “overreacting” or that “we were scary,” instead in true Southern grace we responded by showing them that we are the heartbeat of the South.

Social media became our cry for help to the world. My area was one of the ones under mandatory evacuation and we chose to stay behind. In fact, most of our neighborhood stayed behind. Instead, we decided to maintain constant communication with each other and if we ran out of anything to just lean on one another for support.

Even from the last place I ever expected a reprieve — my creditors. Literally, all of them were more than willing, even happy, to not only waive any late fees our accounts would incur but moved the due dates back to October with no negative impact on our credit reports.

If you’re like me and paid for school with student loans, then you’d be just as pleased as I was to find out that Nelnet, one of my many student-loan servicers, offers a 90-day disaster forbearance. I am sure the others do too. It literally takes a phone call to try to relieve some of the stress and make sense of Harvey’s wrath.

Neighbors who once acted as strangers at the community mailboxes were out in the streets knocking on doors and offering support for each other. Friends on social media were posting about where to find various items, or offering comfort and support to those who may be without. My son’s football coach offered his home for any of the football family who may have had to evacuate and perhaps were in need of somewhere to stay.

Dorian Parker, a member of local car club the Blacklist Mopars, and member and club president Ricky Edwards have organized a “cruise to raise money to donate to those who lost their homes and to thank the first responders who risked their lives to save others,” says Parker.

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Odom's post on Facebook urging fellow Houstonians to get out and help — "All Lives Matter' when it comes to the rescue effort," he says. "Even if they wouldn't do the same."
Courtesy of Ray Odom
Good samaritans Ray Odom and Victor Hoskins called for anyone with boats and 4x4 trucks to come to the rescue of any stranded families in the Riverstone subdivision of the Missouri City/Sugar Land area. For the record, Ray says, “I will help rescue a Trump supporter, KKK member…atheist, drug dealers, and users…All humans in need…”

Safa Ahmad, a local fashion/lifestyle blogger, says, “[I've] never been more proud to be an honorary Texan. It’s really amazing that everyday people were helping their neighbors without question.” Safa is from Maryland, but has found her roots in Texas for the past decade.

People praised Mayor Turner for his efforts, instead of condemning him. For once the Bayou City seems to be of one accord: to save every life. For once the spirit of Texas had no color. For once we seemed to all put aside our disdain for things that once seemed so important.

First responder Craig Corder of the League City Volunteer Fire Department says, "I've had six hours of sleep since Friday," with "water up to the baseboards in [his own] home" yet he still has managed to selflessly give his time to help those who are in need. When asked when this will be over for him, he responded, "When it's over." Corder did express his concern for the obligation he has to his employer, as the LCVFD is his secondary employer. But, he says, "I just can't walk away and go back to my day job knowing lives are still at stake."

Four of my classmates from high school have offered to send our family money, gift cards to Walmart, fuel cards to Exxon — fortunately for us, none of that is needed, but it felt good to know that despite our distance, they are still my family. The outpouring of love and support from co-workers, former co-workers, loved ones and even strangers has been overwhelming.

To all who are affected, please know that you are not alone. You are among family and you have the support of countless, selfless fellow Houstonians who have shown that they will sacrifice their livelihood and their safety to ensure yours.

Houston showed the world how we do things ’round here. I must say, it feels good to be an American, and even better to be a Texan.
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G. Paris Johnson is a freelance writer at the Houston Press, a graduate of Texas Southern University, and a native Houstonian— who enjoys foreign films, friends and family, and venturing around the city finding hidden gems with her husband.