Just Sayin’ …Americans helping each other in Houston—they sure make me proud (Ulish Carter's Column Sept. 6, 2017)


For the past few weeks, CNN has covered Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey’s devastation of southern Texas, including Houston, and parts of Louisiana. But despite the tragic loss of 150,000 homes, and still counting, and billions of dollars worth of property from the worst storm in U.S. history, one big positive stuck out that will hopefully save America, or at least that area—people helping people.
As the worst storm in U.S. history ripped through southern Texas, including the fourth largest city in the country and the fifth-largest metropolitan area leaving thousands homeless, thousands of volunteers risked their lives saving and helping others which has led to only 60 deaths so far.
Not just their neighbors. People came from all across the country, but mostly from the southern states with their boats to help save the lives of Texans and Louisianans. There were Whites, Latinos and Blacks manning these boats saving the lives of Blacks, Latinos and Whites. It didn’t matter the race, age, sex, religion or political beliefs, if you needed help someone was there.
There hasn’t been an official death total yet and won’t be for a while because it will take weeks for the water to subside and a final count can be made. Some areas were hit by the hurricane in which homes and cars were totally destroyed, but most of southern Texas, including Houston, was destroyed by water from the unbelievably heavy rains from the Level 5 storm.
Unlike Pittsburgh, which most of its houses are two to three stories, Houston, like most of the south and Midwest, had one story houses, ranch-style, which led to 4 to 8 feet of water forcing people to have to get on top of their cars or houses instead of just going to the second floor. But the few that had a second floor eventually had to be rescued because the water wasn’t going anywhere and they would have starved to death.
Even though the National Guard, the military, the police, the various federal agencies did a great job and are to be given credit for learning from Hurricane Ike and Hurricane Katrina, it was the thousands of volunteers who put their lives on the line to help others as the reason for the low death total. There were some volunteers who gave their lives. How many is not known yet.
It was great watching these everyday citizens out on boats risking their lives to help save others. Most were out in this terrible weather for a week to three weeks, during the whole duration of the storm. CNN has to be commended for its great coverage, they were on it. They saved some lives as well.
However, I’m still asking the question of why weren’t the sick, elderly and children evacuated early, which would have made it easier to evacuate people later because so much time wouldn’t have to be spent on getting the elderly to and in the boats. Plus, they are more susceptible to germs and viruses in that nasty, filthy water they had to wade in.
Sometime this week the president said he will ask Congress to approve $5.95 billion for Hurricane Harvey relief. This is just the tip of the iceberg, the overall cost hasn’t been figured out yet, but most experts believe it will cost between $45 billion to $160 billion. The pervious most expensive storms were Katrina at $118 billion and still counting, and superstorm Sandy at $73 billion.
Even though most don’t think it will be a problem getting the $5.95 billion, for starters some are saying that it or future funds may be held up because Texas Senator Ted Cruz was one of the key opponents of money going to New Jersey and Louisiana after Sandy and Katrina. Some senators and representatives may want to remind him of his opposition now that his state needs it.
The cost will be enormous for individuals who, in many cases, will have to replace their homes or get massive repairs done. Making matters worse, it has been speculated that 80 percent of the Houston metropolitan area didn’t have flood insurance.
Houston is definitely a progressive city. With only 24 percent of its population being Black, they actually have a Black mayor, Sylvester Turner. The metropolitan area has 6 million people with 2.4 million Whites, 2.5 million Latinos and 1.1 million Blacks which is the fifth-largest in the country. The city is composed of 20 percent Blacks, 39 percent Whites and 35 percent Latinos.
Hopefully in the days, weeks, months, and years it will take for the Houston area to recover from this devastating storm, Blacks, Whites and Latinos will continue to work in harmony to get the much-needed aid for all equally. Houston can become a model for the country, they sure made me proud.
(Ulish Carter is the former managing editor of the Pittsburgh Courier.)
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