One internet meme that made the rounds during the Hurricane Harvey aftermath read: “Texas needs to erect a statue of a random, average guy in a bass boat.”
That, of course, was praise for the thousands of men who cranked up their motors and rescued people from their homes during the 50-inch deluge and resulting flooding. Those of us who grew up in small Texas towns recognize these selfless individuals as our classmates, childhood friends and, now, family men. They’re the first to man the barbecue pits at brisket fund-raisers in their communities. I’d be all for recognizing these heroes.
It was awesome to see so many people jump in and help out neighbors. First responders, as always, served the people by being on the scene for rescues. Restaurants and grocery stores (Let’s hear it for H-E-B!) opened doors and hearts and gave willingly to those in need. National Guard units were deployed to start some of the heavy lifting. And volunteers by the tens of thousands mobilized to show their Samaritan spirit.
If there was any type of silver lining in this disaster, it was seeing our sometimes-fractured populace come together.
I also want to give props to a group that also stayed at their posts to help inform people of weather changes, flooded roads, gas station availability, neighborhood access and much more — those often-targeted, easy-to-blame, sometimes irritating, yet constant seekers of truth — journalists.
In the town of Texas’ oldest newspaper, Galveston, the publisher opened up his website to provide up-to-the-minute information on weather, roads and what businesses were open. When the rains stopped, he also encouraged supporting local businesses which were hit hard and will have trouble recovering, especially in a tourism-dependent area like Galveston.
Our friends at newspapers in both Port Aransas and Aransas Pass put out publications without power, harnessing technology to work remotely while still trying to maintain up-to-date information and comfort their readers.
In Cuero and Yorktown, employees at two of our sister papers worked by candlelight to record and inform. In Edna, the publisher corralled help to insert newspapers in her own garage as her building was without power.
In Victoria, the state’s second-oldest newspaper, reporters worked without power for the better part of a week. Theirs was an example of sacrificing for their readers. They rigged a power device to run four computers off a generator, they slept under desks, had to move chairs to avoid water in the building, and they took in pets from reporters’ flooded homes or apartments. They did all this as they and their families dealt with their own disasters.
And when we look back on these disasters years from now, we will see the stories and heart-wrenching photos taken by journalists in the field, who also trudged through filthy waters to document this event and serve the public — their readers.
Sacrificial deeds from a group of people that are maligned sometimes even as “enemies of the American people.” Those people are us. Those journalists live in those communities, pay taxes, struggle with their own family issues and still show up to pitch in when disaster strikes. Journalists, by nature, are horrible at trumpeting their own good deeds. All these I have mentioned will boast about their friends in the bass boats, but may not publish much about themselves.
But this is a shout out to colleagues and friends from around the storm-affected areas that stayed in harm’s way to keep the accurate information flowing — as critical a need as the groceries and utility services.
I propose we have a statue of the journalist with his or her sleeves rolled up, a pen and notepad in one hand and a smartphone in the other. It can go next to the guy in the bass boat.