From Harvey to Irma: How Americans come together after disaster
Storm response for Hurricane Harvey; August 2017. FWC photo by Gus Holzer. Flickr/Creative Commons.
Floods, destroyed homes, broken power lines, stress and uncertainty all loom in the aftermath of hurricanes. During the past few weeks, we’ve experience Harvey, which caused a destructive path through Texas and Louisiana, and Irma, which devastated the Caribbean, Florida, Georgia and parts of Alabama.
Both hurricanes left people feeling helpless and wondering how they would rebuild their communities and their homes.
Yet, during the tumultuous storms and the uncertain aftermath, there have been moments of unity and human kindness. As we’ve written about before, people often come together after disaster and trauma. This story roundup includes both simple acts of kindness and larger community-driven efforts.
In the wake of Harvey, The New York Times published “What They Saved: Texans Reflect on Treasures Plucked From Harvey,” written by Manny Fernandez. The story featured Shirley Hines, whose home was destroyed, and her broken Fitz and Floyd cups, which belonged to her late mother. “When my mom died, it’s just one of the things I got out of her home. I used to drink coffee out of them occasionally. When I was really feeling down, I’d get one and drink me some coffee,” Hines told Fernandez.
Three cups, two strangers and the Houston flood https://t.co/kBEMK86lBN
— Manny Fernandez (@mannyNYT) September 11, 2017
While reading this story, Ann Dahms of Frederick, Maryland, saw the photo of Hines and her broken cups and she decided to reach out to a stranger who had lost everything by searching for identical Fitz and Floyd cups to send to Hines. Dahms found the cups and sent them to Fernandez in Houston to deliver to Hines.
This is an excerpt from an email Dahms sent to Fernandez explaining why she was moved to this act of kindness. She wrote:
I desperately wanted to replace that broken cup. The world is a broken place, but also a place of great strength, dignity, and personal courage. That’s what I wanted to honor. Also, I figured that the cups could also be from her mother, just a long way around, hopping a few decades in the journey.
Hurricane Irma, which was indeed a weather phenomenon, swooped up bodies of water as it passed through the Bahamas and Florida. This left some sea creatures stranded. After Marcelo Clavijo and his friends spotted two stranded manatees, community members came together to help them back into the water.
While some animals were devistatingly (and horribly) left to fend for themselves, hundreds of animals were saved by civilians, including a dolphin who was rescued by the Today Show crew in between their reporting.
— CNN International (@cnni) September 11, 2017
On Tuesday evening celebrities from all over the nation gathered to raise funds for people affected by Harvey and Irma. The Hand in Hand telethon, which streamed live from New York, Los Angeles and Nashville, generated more than $44 million in donations.
Many stars, including Stevie Wonder, also used the stage to raise awareness around climate change.
“Natural disasters don’t discriminate,” Houston native Beyoncé said. “They don’t care if you’re an immigrant, black or white, Hispanic or Asian, Jewish or Muslim, wealthy or poor.”
An estimated 6.3 million people had to evacuate due to Irma. Many people responded to those in need of housing who posted on the Facebook page: Hurricane Irma Lodging For Evacuees. Here, people listed their homes and information for organizations offering refuge.
On a similar note, over 200 Airbnb hosts in the Southeast opened their homes to evacuees and relief workers free-of-charge through the end of the month.
There is still a lot of work to be done. Beyond inconveniences like power outages and minor flooding, the hurricanes have left many people homeless. For instance, farmworkers in rural Immokalee, Florida, whose homes were completely destroyed are still in need of help.
If you’re interested in helping out, check out the organizations you can support below: