Two current students and one alumnus saw both the devastation and the resilient spirit of community as hurricane victims in Houston came together to clean up and rebuild.
Sweeping through Houston and southeast Texas and dumping 52 inches of rain, Hurricane Harvey forced 34,000 people from their homes, caused damage in 130,000 homes, and led to the death of 31 people, according to the Washington Post.
Freshmen Corrie Patrick and Lily Erickson moved to campus from Houston just days before Hurricane Harvey hit. The hurricane did not damage Erickson’s or Patrick’s homes, but they watched from Hillsdale as the hurricane damaged many homes in their communities.
“Watching this all unfold from Hillsdale has been crazy,” Erickson said.
Even students safe in Hillsdale felt the effects of the dangers facing Houston.
“I just got worried because in like 22 hours it went from a depression to a Category 1, then 2, 3, and when it finally made landfall it was Category 4 hurricane,” Patrick said.
One friend of Patrick’s was trapped in his car in the midst of the flooding.
“He was driving and suddenly there was eight feet of water in front of him, so he turned into a stranger’s driveway,” Patrick said. He was trapped in his car for almost eight hours. The rains were so terrible that he stayed with the stranger for a few days.
“I was so thankful that he met such nice people to welcome him into their home,” Patrick said.
Both Erickson and Patrick are grateful their families and friends were kept safe throughout the floods and evacuations.
“My family was really lucky in that we didn’t have any damage from the hurricane,” Erickson said.
While Erickson and Patrick watched the storm from Hillsdale, Shannon Baldwin, a 2014 graduate from Houston, experienced the hurricane firsthand and saw the extreme destruction and loss in Houston. Her family was safe, but they were anxious as they watched neighborhoods flood and homes suffer extreme damage.
“Each morning and evening we would listen to the news about which areas were facing flooding, and chances are we would know at least one family in that area,” Baldwin said.
Since the end of the storm, Baldwin has volunteered in her community and said she has been amazed by how much was ruined by the rains and how much people have lost
“No one could have anticipated 50 inches in two days,” Baldwin said. “It is mind-boggling to walk down the streets of neighborhoods that completely flooded and see the piles of furniture and discarded flooring. It takes about 20 people an entire day or so to clean out a flooded home. It is grueling and smelly and very hot.”
But despite the damage and the terrible loss, communities have been coming together to rescue and rebuild after the storm. Baldwin saw neighbors rescuing neighbors as her friends took their trucks and kayaks out to rescue people out of their own homes.
“A couple of my guy friends got in their trucks and took their boats, sometimes kayaks, to search and rescue people out of their neighborhoods,” Baldwin said. “Who would have ever imagined having to be boated out of a two-story home?”
But despite the damage, Baldwin, Patrick, and Erickson have all seen overwhelming numbers of people volunteering to clean up.
“I feel like it’s really the Houston population, like the Texans, that have huge Texas pride and are helping out,” Patrick said.
Erickson was encouraged watching the community come together to help.
“The coolest thing, I think, that has come out of this hurricane is how everyone has forgotten all the divisions between them and decided to take care of the community,” Erickson said. “No one sees differences in skin color, wealth, religion, ethnicity, they just see Houstonians.”
Baldwin also encountered the resilience of the community firsthand as she and many others came in full force to clean up and rebuild.
“This mass effort truly shows the compassion and servant hearts that have emerged through the storm,” Baldwin said. In fact, when Baldwin and her family could safely get out to volunteer, they were actually turned away by two shelters because they already had overwhelming numbers of donations and volunteers.
So despite the devastation many Texans have witnessed and experienced, there is a resilience in the community as many come together to rebuild and recover from the damage. Rain, not even 52 inches, can douse the spirit of Houston.
“The hope in all of this is our faith in God and in the love that people are showing for one another,” Baldwin said.