By Grace Armstrong
Most of my memories are from Houston, Texas. I wasn’t born in Houston, but about a year after I was born in Atlanta, Georgia, my family hiked it to Houston for my mom’s new job. I’ll never forget the time we had a class field trip to the Alamo; the pure joy I felt that one December when it slightly snowed for four seconds; seeing a police officer pursuing a car on horseback. But the things I remember the most are the hurricanes.
During Rita in 2005, I remember seeing a car drive onto the sidewalk to try to get around traffic and being pushed out of George Bush Intercontinental Airport with my family as the speakers blared, “This is not a shelter, please evacuate.”
During Ike, my mom and I slept in the hallway away from windows. The next morning I woke up and saw a tree pushing against my mom’s bedroom window. If it had fallen more while my mom was in there, she would have been killed. I remember seeing streets flooded, with household items and tree branches rushing by. During Katrina, I remember how many people filled the Astrodome, and how many people came to Houston to rebuild what they had left behind.
When Hurricane Harvey came around, and news started coming out about the damage done and lives lost, I was crushed. Though my family and friends were safe, I knew that countless others had been displaced or lost everything. However, as I was reading these stories, I noticed there was a portion of the internet that considered this disaster as “karma” for Texas because of last year’s election. Politico even took time to publish this piece of garbage . Instead of helping those affected by Harvey, many decided to shun everyone because of one election. For your information, Houston voted blue. The fact that you refuse to help or choose to demean or ignore Harvey victims or their suffering because you don’t agree with how they voted is bigoted and disgusting.
I know that Harvey and the damage it has caused will be center stage in political discussion and debate, I’m no fool. I know how divided our country is, and everyone has a theory as to why that is: because of leftist/alt-right extremists, because of Donald Trump, because of racial tension, etc. But if you think that anyone affected by Harvey is not worthy of respect and help, then you need to take a step back and examine your beliefs and more importantly, who you are as a person.
If you’ve ever met me, you’d know I have a lot of problems with Texas. I’m not a Republican, I don’t like Ted Cruz or Greg Abbott (I know a fair amount of Republicans who don’t like them either). Heck, even Texas toast is too much for me to handle. But I’d never wish for anyone to lose their homes and families just because I don’t agree with the state’s political leanings as a whole.
Use Harvey as evidence for climate change, not as an excuse for bigotry. I know that the chaos, death and destruction that extreme storms like Harvey and Irma bring to not just Texas and Florida, but to Belize, Nicaragua, Cuba, Haiti, Louisiana and so many more places, is caused by climate change. I know that Jesus Contreras, a famous paramedic who helped save lives during Hurricane Harvey, is a beneficiary of DACA. I know many undocumented people feared seeking help due to fear of being deported. Regardless of how you identify on the political spectrum, people are people. Death and loss are terrible things. Don’t let your political leanings allow you to marginalize people’s suffering.
Places you can donate:
– Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund: https://ghcf.org/hurricane-relief/
– Houston Food Bank: http://www.houstonfoodbank.org/
– Hurricane Harvey LGBTQ Diaster Relief Fund: https://my.reason2race.com/DNicol/HurricaneHarveyLGBTQDisasterReliefFund2017
– Houston Humane Society: http://www.houstonhumane.org/
– The New York Times has published an article with many links to good institutions that are providing assistance for victims of Hurricane Irma: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/08/us/hurricane-irma-help-donate.html
For more accredited places to donate, please visit: https://www.nvoad.org/hurricane-harvey/hurricane-harvey-how-to-help/.