With the level of angst and disunity that appears to be very prevalent in the country today, sometimes it takes a natural disaster of epic proportions to remind us – all of us – that America is a country of neighbors helping neighbors, and friends helping friends. Citizens from other parts of the country paraded into the Houston area with their boats, intent on helping to rescue fellow Americans trapped from the flood waters. Not a single time did someone stop to consider who the person stuck on their rooftop voted for, there was only consideration for human life and human decency. That spirit, embodied by every single person who lent a hand and continues to do so, is America.
With the footage on television and videos floating around the internet, take a few minutes to read the finer details of some of these rescue stories, they’re truly remarkable.
Take the story of Annie Smith, a 32-year old woman who was literally going into labor as the flood waters were rising. ABC News finishes the story:
“When I saw all the flooding, I turned to Greg and was like, ‘I’m really starting to get scared now,’” Annie Smith told ABC News. “It kind of dawned on me that this is it — I’m in actual labor.”
The Smiths, both doctors, moved to Houston from Virginia earlier this summer to complete medical fellowships — Annie Smith in geriatrics and Greg Smith in pediatric anesthesiology.
Greg Smith went into “super doctor mode,” according to his wife, and began collecting supplies around the house, like scissors and sewing needles, that could be used for the birth. He asked his mom, who was visiting, to boil water to sterilize the supplies.
The couple had been continuously dialing 911 and the Texas National Guard’s emergency number since 8 a.m. but never got an answer. Harvey, which first made landfall Friday as a Category 4 hurricane before weakening to a tropical storm that has stalled over southeastern Texas for days, has shattered the contiguous-U.S. rainfall record for a tropical storm, according to the National Weather Service.
A phone call made by Annie Smith, to the director of her fellowship program, was what finally got a rescue crew to the Smiths’ front door.
“I think it was [the director’s] father who lived near a fire department, and he walked to it and told them what was happening,” Greg Smith said.
Less than an hour later, around noon, Greg Smith looked up and saw a truck arriving outside.
The water by that point was so high that the Smiths’ neighbors and firefighters formed a human chain to help Annie Smith to the back of the flatbed truck.
This is video of the Smith’s literally being helped from their flooded home onto the rescue truck:
Then take the rescue group known as the “Cajun Navy,” which is literally a group of volunteers, with boats. They hail mostly from Louisiana and loosely formed after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Since that time they have banded together and rescued people throughout the Southern United States when flooding occurs and the authorities are overwhelmed by the sheer size of the disaster.
This picture alone, from a few days ago, is the spirit of America:
No obligation to go, but a desire to help their fellow man in a time of dire need. More from Fox News:
The rescue group known as the “Cajun Navy” has performed hundreds of rescues since Hurricane Harvey flooded the Houston area on Monday.
The Cajun Coast Search and Rescue team, a Louisiana volunteer group is composed of anyone who owns a boat and wants to rescue flood victims. The group formed after Hurricane Katrina devastated Louisiana in 2005.
Some of those rescued were trapped in the upper stories of hotels or on roofs. One elderly woman was facedown in the water when the Cajun Navy found her and resuscitated her. The rescuers provided clean drinking water and blankets as they transported victims to safety. [Emphasis added]
“It’s something within our heart.,” Wade said. “I think the driving force to keep us going is the hugs, the kisses, the gratitude that we’re shown.”
It is “heartwarming” to see the “look of relief” on people’s faces, he concluded.
Here’s a more detailed perspective from the Commander of the Cajun Navy, Toney Wade:
At 2 a.m. Sunday, I left Jeanerette, Louisiana, with 16 people, six boats, five trained K-9 dogs and a 5 1/2-ton military-grade, high-water rescue vehicle and headed west through Hurricane Harvey’s wind and rain to Texas. It would be another 24 hours before we stopped working for the day.
I’m the commander of Cajun Coast Search and Rescue, an all-volunteer organization founded in 2013 that helps in natural or man-made disasters. We got a call Saturday night from emergency officials in Houston seeking help, and we went. On the way, we were diverted to Dickinson, Texas, where officials initially thought they had about 10,000 people who needed to be rescued — far more than they’d be able to get to on their own. Fortunately that estimate was high, but there were still probably 2,000 people in need of assistance.
When we got to Dickinson, officials gave us a list of addresses where they knew people were trapped by rising water. It took us about 1 1/2 hours to get to all of them. Once we finished with the list, we just started going through flooded neighborhoods one house at a time. We typically don’t enter homes — we go up with our boats, bang on the door and holler to make sure anyone inside knows we’re there. We also bang on the attic — unfortunately, a lot of people crawl into the attic to get away from high water. Our boats pick people up, then take them to our truck, which we set up in a safe location nearby. Once the truck is full, we drive them to emergency shelters that the Coast Guard has set up, where a medical team evaluates them, and we head back out to do it all over again. We rescued 35 people on Sunday alone, and we’ll be doing it every day as long as we’re needed.
Conditions were pretty bad Sunday in Dickinson. The storm was still lingering, dumping rain on of us as we worked and tried to move around, and the water was already surprisingly high. We had to push cars out of the way or pilot our boats over them as we moved through neighborhood streets. It was rough.
The cover photo for this article is that of Houston SWAT officer Daryl Hudeck, as he carries Catherine Pham and her 13- month-old son, Aiden. The photo has become somewhat famous now as the embodiment of what has occurred since last Saturday as rescuers selflessly worked to ensure the safety of others. Here’s more on the story of the photo from ABC 13:
Someday, no doubt, Aiden’s mother will tell him about the day Houston police rescued them from their flooded home by boat, and about how one officer lifted them to safety. But thanks to the careful eye of a veteran Associated Press photographer assigned to cover the storm, the world already knows the mother, child and officer as the faces of the struggle to deal with the devastation.
“I was just keeping an eye out and as soon as I saw the SWAT team member carrying her and then seeing the baby, I just couldn’t believe that baby was wrapped up in there and not crying,” photographer David Phillip said of the moment Sunday afternoon when his lens found the trio. “It was just tender. It was very special.”
Phillip’s photo shows officer Daryl Hudeck, in baseball cap and fatigues, carrying Catherine Pham and the son she cradled through knee-deep water covering Interstate 610, in southwest Houston.
Phillip said the woman and child were rescued along with the baby’s father from their home in the city’s Meyerland section, where water reached many roofs.
By Monday, the image had quickly become a symbol of the storm and rescue efforts, featured across the web and many front pages.
“Thank you to everyone for the outpouring of love and support. All of the first responders are working tirelessly to find and move those impacted by the flooding to safe ground. Please continue to keep the city of Houston in your thoughts and prayers,” said officer Daryl Hudeck.
So many people continue to put their own lives at risk to save the lives of others, and they think nothing of it. If Hurricane Harvey teaches us anything, it should be that Americans can stand united, especially when lives depend on it.
Some flooding is still occurring, as the storm continues to dump water on other parts of Texas and Louisiana. Pray for the storm victims and the rescuers. Send your love and your donations to reputable organizations than can help provide assistance.
I’ll leave you with this, a video of volunteers at a rescue shelter near Houston breaking into song: