For this week’s Spring Break, five Clinton School students have traveled to Houston to participate in rebuilding efforts with SBP for Hurricane Harvey. Throughout the week, the students will be posting reflections on their work. Today’s post is from Brian Wegner, a first-year student from Saginaw, Mich.
A sentiment, hashtag, battle cry of a city that was not willing to face destruction quietly and without a fight. People saw the slogan on social media and TV commercials, but what does it look like, feel like, to the non-Houstonian, the non-Texan? Truthfully, I didn’t have a clue as I sat in Little Rock hundreds of miles away, my reality consisted of my studies. I had done disaster work before, but in a city of 62,000. What does “Strong” look like in a city of 2.3 million—America’s 4th largest city?
Here is what I’ve witnessed “Houston Strong” to be since we’ve arrived. A group of 30 volunteers from across the country gathered in a parking lot patiently awaiting orientation at 6:30 in the morning. The many AmeriCorps members, both Houstonians and not, who committed to 10 months of service, some who moved to Houston and now fight for it. Our homeowner who used their truck to transport 50+ people safely to shelters during the storm. The group of volunteers from Nebraska at the house next door, who mucked and gutted in full protective body suits in 80-degree heat and sun. The multitude of contractors that have passed by our house to work at the dozens of other homes in the neighborhoods, yards still riddled with piles of their resident’s lives in soggy ruined heaps. The non-verbal understanding communicated between a head nod and a smile between myself and a person pouring new concrete at a house down the street.
I don’t know what exactly “Strong” looked like in the days, weeks, and first couple months following Harvey. But I imagine it was the 400-pound deadlift, a show of quick, powerful force. The past two days, six and a half months after Harvey, I have seen “Strong” to be a marathon: people are still working, people are still committed to the recovery, people are still traveling great distances to come out and help, sharing smiles with those who are doing the same. This is still the beginning of the race, but Houston is moving forward with strength anyways.