Images of heroism may offer newfound hope in Harvey's wake


Tom Kirvan
Legal News, Editor-in-Chief

Of all the enduring images arising from greater Houston over the past week, one photo was particularly heart-wrenching as the nation’s fourth largest city was swamped by more than 50 inches of rain in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

The photo was of more than a dozen nursing home residents, many confined to wheelchairs, pictured helplessly as floodwaters rose waist high as they awaited rescue. Their desperate plight, which was played out over several hours before their pleas for help were finally answered, painfully illustrated the scope of an unprecedented tragedy that has engulfed Southeast Texas.

Several days later, reports of another life-saving mission filtered out, this time involving a 41-year-old mother and her infant daughter who were swept into a canal after their car was stuck in high water. Once rescuers reached the pair, the mother was found unresponsive while her daughter desperately clung to life in what would become the ultimate parental sacrifice.

The mother “absolutely saved the child’s life,” a police spokesman told reporters, adding that “the mother did the best she could to keep her child up over the water” until help arrived.

The toll of devastation, of course, is still unfolding for Houston area residents, thousands of whom may well be rendered homeless as streets continue to resemble swollen rivers while the recovery effort begins in earnest following the epic flooding.

And yet, America can take heart in the way Texans banded together in the face of adversity. Time and again, we watched heroic rescue efforts orchestrated by first responders and countless volunteers, many manning boats that combed Houston neighborhoods in search of flood victims.

The video footage showed black, white, Asian, and Hispanic responders extending helping hands to whomever was in need – whatever their race, wherever their neighborhood. The real-life rescue stories served as heart-warming examples of a community united, far removed from the divisive politics that threatens to splinter a country.

It is, after all, less than a month since we witnessed another American horror story, the racial divide played out on the streets of Charlottesville, Va.

There, on August 12, a clash between white nationalists and anti-racism demonstrators opened age-old wounds of hatred and bigotry, spawning violence that left one woman dead and scores more injured when a car, driven by a Neo-Nazi follower, rammed into a crowd of protesters.

The fallout from the violence in the venerable Virginia city was exacerbated by far-right apologists, including a tone-deaf President who failed to draw the line on the evils of racial injustice. In effect, the bloodshed in Charlottesville was a horrifying example of America at its worst, split by ignorance and intolerance.

Some two weeks later, an altogether different picture of America was painted, this time in a state that historically has been beset by its own series of racial challenges. The lasting image that has emerged is of a region – perhaps even a state and a nation – that can be inspired to unite for the common good, viewing the impact of a devastating hurricane as an opportunity to sow the seeds of understanding, compassion, and racial harmony.