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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Harvey has created untold heroes from ordinary people responding magnificently

Americans and people the world over are watching heart-grabbing, jaw-dropping, eye-watering videos and stories from Harvey via a combination of the national TV news networks and the major news websites, plus their own social media platforms, with their customized profiles based on their particular histories, preferences, settings, etc., influenced directly and indirectly by their respective locations and sets of friends.

Houstonians like me who've not been much directly affected by Harvey are watching those same national media, of course. Many of us are supplementing the national networks, or deserting them, for local TV news stations, whose coverage and performance is in every respect superior to their national counterparts. Local reporting is more in depth, of course, and more knowledgeable, of course, and better connected to history, of course. But it's also showing significantly better perspective and judgment, with less hysteria, less ratings-pandering, less sensationalism, and vastly more critically useful factual information.

Moreover, and less obviously: My Facebook feed, customized to my set of friends and contacts, is giving me a constant, steady set of more granular news in parallel to what I'm seeing on TV (local or national) or other general internet sources.

So to my friends in, say, California: I'm seeing the heroic stories you're seeing. But I'm also seeing dozens of individual people I know — neighbors, relatives, law colleagues and judges, old friends from college, people I've "met" only online — engaged in quiet, effective, and almost completely unreported heroism. There's no reason why FB would be or could be curating this sort of thing effectively for the vast set of people who aren't living in Houston or on the Gulf Coast or otherwise involved in the rescue & recovery efforts.

But these smaller, less flashy rescues, these bunking arrangements, these boat loans and sandwich deliveries and "I heard from your cousin, she's alive!" messages that I'm seeing pass among my fellow Houstonians through the particular lens of my set of FB friends — these things, individually and especially cumulatively, are awe-inspiring. These decent acts, these attempts to be useful and helpful, are more striking to me precisely because unlike the heroes I'm seeing on TV, these particular acts of heroism are being performed by people I already know. And I think it's a very reasonable inference that millions of other Houstonians in my approximate position are likewise seeing a different set of people who they know, who are being similarly heroic during Harvey — but of whom you and I are utterly unaware, and always will be.

My eyes are red. I've been choked up in admiration so many times in the last 72 hours — most often about small bits of sanity and kindness and extraordinary calm and love that no one, or no more than a handful of other people, will ever see, or know about, or remember. 

I can't cut and paste those stories or copy those photos here, of course. I'm sure it would be against FB's fine print, and a complete breach of trust with anyone who's shared those communications with me on the assumption that they'd not be redistributed beyond his or her FB friends. So you're just going to have to take my word for it, I guess, or the word of others here in Houston while this is going on:

There are thousands, indeed tens of thousands, of bona fide and unsung heroes for each one we're seeing on TV. The ones on TV are genuinely representative, and I'm glad their deeds are being sung. They are inspirational without contrivance.

But to borrow a phrase from Twain: you can't swing a dead cat without hitting one of the unsung heroes in Houston right now — whether it's someone in any of the relief areas, someone coordinating resources and people on the internet, or someone showing up to work today to restock a grocery store shelf or clean up some debris piles. 

Inevitably in time, more controversy will ensue, and some of it will be incited. Too many take seriously that stuff about not letting a good crisis go to waste, and this is a doozy. That may, and probably will, inevitably tarnish, at least in the perception of some people, the pride and goodwill that's so abundant in Houston today, as we fight back against this chaos.

But controversy won't eliminate those memories, nor unwrite this history of ordinary people responding magnificently, heroically in ways big and small, under extraordinary circumstances.


UPDATE (Weds. Aug. 30 @ 11:40 pm): I don't actually have permission to re-post this photo, but since it's of my niece Liana Dyer James' husband David, I'm going to post it here anyway, since he was one of the many, many people I had in mind when I wrote the original post.

David (white shirt & reversed ball cap) looks like a Navy SEAL, but he's actually a broker and financial advisor in his day job, a devoted husband & family man, and a leader in his hometown community and his church. He and a friend hitched up their boat and drove down from Palestine to help in the rescue efforts. No one told them to, or asked them to. They aren't being paid or reimbursed. They don't have FEMA name tags or a Coast Guard helicopter. But they just couldn't not do it — like so many of the others who're volunteering in these relief efforts.

In this photo, they're using their boat to transport a flooded-out family to safety, but part of that process requires negotiating some shallow standing water by foot — a scene repeated hundreds of times in dozens of places all over the Houston area today. And they're not just grimly toiling, but rather, they're deliberately doing their very best to lighten the mood, to find some humor, and to celebrate these kiddos' "first-ever boat rides! Whee!" so that perhaps these kids can someday remember the Hurricane Harvey rescue they needed as something that was noble and redeeming, instead of something unrelievedly sad and tragic. 

David James doing rescues

I could strip my FB feed for probably twenty other photos like this of Texans I personally know and love, ordinary people, who're doing exactly this kind of thing, but whom you won't see on TV. But this one magnificent photo will suffice to make my point, I think.

Posted by Beldar at 08:49 AM in Current Affairs, Texas | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Harvey has created untold heroes from ordinary people responding magnificently and sent a trackback ping are listed here:


(1) DRJ made the following comment | Aug 30, 2017 9:17:26 AM | Permalink

There are countless stories from South Texas I have read and images I have seen over the past week that choked me up. For me, this is today's touching story.

(2) DRJ made the following comment | Aug 30, 2017 9:18:41 AM | Permalink

I'm not sure that link worked. (Shock!) If not, try this: http://www.chron.com/news/article/During-Katrina-he-welcomed-flood-victims-into-12160734.php

(3) DRJ made the following comment | Aug 30, 2017 9:37:48 AM | Permalink

In addition to the incredible first responders from Houston, the State of Texas, and the nation, and the wonderful Houstonians, South Texans, and Cajuns who stepped up for their neighbors, I want to give credit to the courage and effort by Texas electricity providers -- who have somehow managed to keep the power on in countless neighborhoods. THAT is why people will be able to stay in Houston instead of having to be relocated to other places in Texas.

(4) Beldar made the following comment | Aug 30, 2017 9:50:29 AM | Permalink

Thanks, DRJ. I wrote about my admiration for those workers back in 2003.

(5) DRJ made the following comment | Aug 30, 2017 10:13:31 AM | Permalink

What a great post about people who make our lives infinitely better. Thank you for that tribute and for linking it today. On a personal note, I learned the same lesson in my first jury trial as a young lawyer and it made me a much better lawyer and person.

FWIW I hope the folks in Beaumont-Port Arthur and Louisiana get through this, and that their leaders and responders handle it as well as Houston did.

(6) DRJ made the following comment | Aug 30, 2017 10:24:19 AM | Permalink

I know there are hundreds more stories like this. Great job, Texans.

(7) mg made the following comment | Aug 30, 2017 6:43:07 PM | Permalink

Texans have always stood tall in times of crisis. The rest of America should take notice.

(8) Maxwell made the following comment | Aug 30, 2017 8:02:03 PM | Permalink

I rode it out in Cypress, high and dry, but keeping a weather eye on the flood channel behind the house. Thankfully it reached a certain level and stayed there within it's banks. Not far away the Coast Guard and National Guard helicopters looked to be pulling people out of the neighborhood next to mine. Local FB page flooded with pleas for rescue, it was heartbreaking.

(9) MaxedOutMama made the following comment | Aug 30, 2017 9:06:05 PM | Permalink

Thanks for posting so that we know you are all right.

I totally agree about the community response. It is deeply admirable.

God bless and keep you all.

(10) DRJ made the following comment | Aug 31, 2017 12:13:37 AM | Permalink

Look at the smiles (in the photo in the Update) on the faces of your heroic nephew-in-law and the kids he is helping. You are absolutely right that they are not victims and shouldn't think of themselves that way. Those kids are training to be future Texas' heroes!

(11) mg made the following comment | Aug 31, 2017 4:41:03 AM | Permalink

Fantastic photo. Everyone needs a nephew like that.
I was curious as how the livestock has fared on the ranches?

(12) mg made the following comment | Aug 31, 2017 5:41:09 AM | Permalink

Predictable hack cartoons, by diseased infested liberals.
I love the line of people waiting to volunteer.
Keeping America Proud, Thank you, Texans.

(13) MIK made the following comment | Aug 31, 2017 7:16:44 AM | Permalink

Your photo brought tears to my eyes. Never prouder to be an American.

(14) JG made the following comment | Aug 31, 2017 7:19:48 AM | Permalink

A minor note. Harvey didn't create Heroes. It Revealed them.

(15) Satrose made the following comment | Aug 31, 2017 7:33:34 AM | Permalink

Thanks for the post. My sister lives in Houston and I have been frantic about her. Wont go into details (age health issues, medication running low) but its good to know that she is in a city where people care.

(16) Chester White made the following comment | Aug 31, 2017 7:35:22 AM | Permalink

This is America.

Antifa is not America. KKK is not America.

(17) DRJ made the following comment | Aug 31, 2017 9:29:45 AM | Permalink

Texas cowboys are on the job, mg.

(18) Dustin made the following comment | Aug 31, 2017 9:32:43 AM | Permalink

Great post, Beldar. A lot of this really is very tragic, but our attitudes about how to see these events are our choice. Stay safe down there.

My whole childhood is next to the Addicks Reservoir. I never expected this degree of flooding, but I am not surprised by the compassion.

(19) DRJ made the following comment | Aug 31, 2017 9:39:02 AM | Permalink

But there will be many cattle and other livestock killed by the flooding. It's too soon to tell but it will probably impact the price of beef.

(20) DRJ made the following comment | Aug 31, 2017 9:45:26 AM | Permalink

There will be a lot of livestock, wild animals, and pets lost but people are working to save them. The livestock are trying to survive, too.

(21) mg made the following comment | Aug 31, 2017 11:46:21 AM | Permalink

Much thanks DRJ.
mighty frightening. first time I've seen a boat used to herd cattle!

(22) Beldar made the following comment | Aug 31, 2017 1:48:10 PM | Permalink

Very good comments, thank you all!

@ JG (#14), you're right about Harvey revealing heroes rather than making them.

(23) mg made the following comment | Aug 31, 2017 6:54:06 PM | Permalink


(24) DRJ made the following comment | Sep 5, 2017 8:40:18 AM | Permalink

I've spent a lot of time reading about the Harvey heroes, and their stories are inspiring. Now we are starting to learn more about the Harvey victims, and their stories are tragic. The fact there are relatively few of them allows us to hear their stories and focus on each loss. Of course, 60+ is a big number and obviously to their families each loss is enormous, but hearing 60 stories of loss is something we can process and feel. Hearing 1800, as in Katrina, just leaves us numb.

(25) DRJ made the following comment | Sep 6, 2017 9:23:43 PM | Permalink

A lineman died making repairs near Victoria. RIP.

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