When Hurricane Harvey began hammering down on Houston, ordinary people from all over the country were deeply affected. The Category 4 hurricane didn’t just wreak havoc on the people who lived in Houston, it touched families from all over the world who felt powerless to the events that were unfolding before their eyes.
While most good samaritans donated to the Red Cross, or other reputable organizations to help the victims, three brothers from Antonio, Texas decided to go one step further: to get on the ground in Houston. They realized that the only way to truly help the people in their hometown was to rescue them themselves. This meant they would need a lot of energy and some specialized equipment…
Hurricane Harvey: The Damage
Lasting from August 25, 2017 -September 2, 2017, Hurricane Harvey was the first major hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. since Wilma in 2005. In four days, many areas received more than 40 inches of rain causing catastrophic flooding. The floods killed 70 people, displaced more than 30,000 people and prompted more than 17,000 rescues.
Three brothers from San Antonio, Texas, watched Hurricane Harvey devastate the city of Houston on T.V. and they grew tired of sitting at home. They knew the only way to really help the victims was to get off the couch and do something about it…
How Could They Help?
While the brothers were trying to figure out what to do, they received a helpful tip from a Houston police officer. The officer said to Brad Morris: “We’ve got boats…but what we need is high water trucks.” The brothers didn’t own a truck at the time, so Brad and his brother Adam got on Craigslist and started looking.
After hours of searching, the boys laid their eyes a beauty: It was called “The Punisher.” With a price tag of $13,000, the truck weighed 21,550 pounds and was airbrushed with skulls. The truck looked big and bad, but would it be able to withstand driving through waist-high water?
Put It To The Test
Four days after Hurricane Harvey began, Brad and Adam arrived in Houston, along with their brother-in-law, David Couch, to put their new truck, “The Punisher” to the test. By this time, the hurricane had taken the lives of five people and countless more were stranded in their homes. The boys realized the urgency of the situation and they wasted no time getting to the victims as quickly as they could. But, they still had one problem…
Arriving In Houston
Although the boys were equipped with “The Punisher” which was strong enough to withstand the flooding, they needed additional help. So, working with local law enforcement, the brothers drove through the 5-foot high water to rescue people and pets that had been stranded in their home for days. Most of the victims had run out of food and didn’t know when their next meal was going to be. Little did they know, help was on the way…
First Day Of Rescues
The brothers’ first stop was to Bear Creek, a neighborhood that still remained flooded after so many days because it was so close to Houston’s Addicks Reservoir. The reservoir continued to overflow, but many of the victims decided to stay behind to protect their homes and pets. But, finally, after days of the water not subsiding, residents knew they needed to get out. Brad, Addam and David arrived at their first rescue and the looks on the victims’ faces were priceless.
People And Pets
The boys helped not only people but also pets, including dogs, cats, parakeets and even hedgehogs through the waist-high water and to their truck. The families affected brought as many of their belongings on the truck as they could carry, not knowing when they would return to their homes, or what the damage would look like when they did…
Second Day Of Rescues
After a successful first day of rescues, the brothers moved southwest for a second day. They drove through another flooded neighborhood in Houston, where police even set up a launching point for boats. It was at that spot that 2,500 people had been rescued and most of them by ordinary people. Ryan, Brad, and David knew this was their big opportunity to help.
One Of The Residents
As they drove their monster truck through the floodwater, they noticed a woman struggling to get carry her groceries. When they grabbed her hand to help her onto the truck, the brothers learned the woman was a female bodybuilder, who was 11 days away from her first show. The woman, Jennifer McArver, had walked three miles in the flood from her home to Walmart to get the right food for her diet. “Ya’ll are my blessing… on a hope and prayer.” But, when the boys dropped Jennifer off at her apartment, they saw something both awful and uplifting…
At the apartment, they found a family of six waiting outside and the parents were begging for someone to bring them diapers for their baby, and milk and bread. A good neighbor named Johnny Gonzalez jumped in the brothers’ truck and offered to bring back the bare necessities that this family desperately needed. Johnny told the brothers: “A lot of people were not prepared… And I tell you what, I’m gonna buy me a big truck after this.”
Over the next several hours, the brothers rescued over a dozen people, while other citizen rescuers paddled in speedboats, kayaks, and canoes. A resident named Justin Davis had evacuated his family on Monday but had to go back to his apartment to get some important items. He returned for birth certificates, social security cards and proof of insurance to file to FEMA, after learning his flood insurance didn’t cover rentals. He told the boys the way he had been living the past few of days and it broke their hearts…
The Grim Reality
Justin explained that he’s had to stay in a hotel and rent a car for his family to get around. Earlier that week, Justin recalled that his wife Tamila had to swim to a rescue boat with their baby in her arms just to get out of their home safely. That Thursday, to lighten up the somber mood around her, Tamila wore a T-shirt that read: “the struggle is real.”
The brothers’ final stop was to answer a 911 call the police had gotten about a woman stuck in a nearby apartment complex. She had reportedly been screaming for help and rescue crews were grateful to have the brothers assistance. However, when they arrived at the apartment, a citizen in a rescue boat had already offered his help and it became clear that the entire community was pulling together…
In times of devastation like this, you either sink or swim, and Houston has chosen to swim! “People couldn’t sit around and watch people suffer,” Morris said. “It’s that Texas pride, I guess.”
Residents of Texas even took strangers into their homes who were flooded out by the hurricane. Stranded motorists helped other stranded motorists and neighbors with boats pulled families off rooftops and through second-story windows. People began helping other people for no reason other than the fact that they had the ability to…
Not The Norm
This notion of coming together, however, is not the norm for Texas, especially in a city the size of Houston. Like other major cities, one tends to live in isolation from their neighbors next door and it isn’t just fences that divide them…
Different religions, sexuality, politics, and race divide people and isolate us from one another. Most people are wrapped up in their own lives and it’s only when a tragedy like this that we pull together. In these moments, you don’t care who saves you, you only care that you are saved.
There’s a very important lesson in this: that the people suffering this ordeal will someday remember it not simply for what they lost, but for what they found. When they think of their fear, they will also remember that they discovered generosity. What they think of the material possessions that they lost, they will remember the friends they gained- those who used to be strangers. But, most importantly…
They will remember that anything that is broken can be rebuilt, and tough times don’t last, but tough people do. We’re praying for you Houston!