As the Coast Guard flew back and forth in the air continuing its rescue efforts in Houston, Bethany Wilson, junior graphic design major, and her family were checking their home security cameras to monitor the water build-up and tracking wind speed changes because of the possibility of debris flying through their neighborhood from the nearby construction site.
Of the days Wilson and her family were enduring the flooding and winds of Hurricane Harvey in Spring Branch, a district of Texas, Wilson said she received a phone call from her grandfather, who, at the time, was out of state completing a job as a truck driver. He had called the family to ask them to get to his wife and two cousins. With freeways flooded and transportation minimal, Wilson was unable to meet her grandmother and cousins.
“It was a little scary, but ultimately we knew there was nothing we could do without putting ourselves in danger,” Wilson said. “We knew that God was bigger than the storm and that if it was his will to keep them safe, he would. It was tough to rest in that, but it feels a lot better to trust than to be scared and helpless.”
Although Wilson’s grandmother and cousins were safe during and after the storm, Wilson’s mother, who works at a private school in their church, found herself without a job for the unforeseeable future after the church turned into a distribution center for shelters in the Houston area.
For Wilson and her fiance, Harvey delayed their return to CBU, forcing them to miss their first week of rehearsals for the Collinsworth School of Music, but they were able to return to CBU on time for the first week of classes.
“My future looks like a normal semester, which is strange after seeing all the destruction in my home city,” Wilson said. “For those of us who get to go back to ‘normal life,’ there’s definitely a bit of guilt. It feels wrong to just go back to normal life when many others don’t have a ‘normal’ anymore.”
Three hours east of Wilson’s hometown is the city of Cypress, where Ashley Johnson, junior intercultural studies major, lives.
“I’ve been through a good amount of hurricanes, but never one as devastating as Harvey,” Johnson said. “It is absolutely heartbreaking to watch your hometown become engulfed under water leaving thousands of people stranded or homeless.”
Located on the northwest side of Houston, Johnson experienced the storm’s intensity as it idled over the general area for four long days.
Johnson and her family only suffered minor damages from the storm and Johnson was able to return to California Baptist University in time for the first week of classes.
While Wilson and Johnson start their school year in California, they said their thoughts remain at home and they urge people to remember Texas on its road to recovery.
“There is tons of support flowing in because Harvey was such an immediate crisis,” Wilson said. “The concern is that as time passes, this crisis will pass out of the public eye and people will forget that complete rebuilding will take longer than just a few months. We are praying that people continue to send supplies and donations to help with this ‘marathon process.’”
“Harvey has taken a lot but in it’s wake we’ve gotten to witness a compassionate exchange of humanity that serves as a hope for the present and future. I could not be more proud to call Texas my home,” Johnson said.
“Because of past storms, I had a really bad feeling about this particular one. When the Associated Press contacted me a couple of days before the storm was going to hit I was like, ‘Man, something’s wrong. I’m not going to go,’” said William Stewart, freelance cameraman and video producer for the Associated Press, Weather Channel and other outlets.
Stewart’s initial suspicions about the damage Hurricane Harvey would have on Houston were confirmed Aug. 25 when it grew into a Category 4 hurricane, touched land in the southern part of Texas where it started its path toward Houston, where homes and livelihoods faced an average of 70 mph winds, 117 hours of storms and a record 51.88 inches of rain.
While photographing the recovery efforts, Stewart said seeing strangers walk up to houses willing to help in anyway they could was inspiring.
“The recovery effort has been wonderful,” Stewart said. “Watching all of these regular folks walk in and someone would ask, ‘Who are you?’ and they’d say, ‘We’re going to help.’”
While Stewart covered the aftermath, his wife, Laura Stewart, an elementary school teacher, became a part of the rescue when she reached out to a single mother who lost her apartment in the flooding.
Instead of scrolling past the post and letting the family go to a shelter, she decided to open up their home.
Choosing to house the mother and her 8- and 9-year-old children not only provided a roof over their heads, but also an opportunity for the children to attend a different and better school district.
Although housing a family is a worthy contribution, Laura Stewart said knowing there are still people out there who need help who she cannot provide for is a hard reality to face.
“It’s overwhelming. You want to help everywhere but you just start to realize you can only do a little piece of this big puzzle,” Laura Stewart said.
As the Stewarts continue to help with their piece of the puzzle, they said they have hope for those affected by Harvey because of the amount of help they have witnessed.
“It’s hard to hear the devastation and talk to people and see what they’re going through,” Laura Stewart said. “At the same time, with the level of donations and volunteers, there are lines out the doors. They have to turn down volunteers. To see that humanity is amazing and a great light in all of this. To see how resilient people can be, how strong they can be in something like this — it makes us feel a whole lot better knowing there are strangers out there who are willing to help anybody and everybody.”