After the Storm

by Maritime

Personal account shared by Jan Keats, Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) Coordinator for The Salvation Army Maritime Division.

Leaving a trail of death and destruction in its wake in the Caribbean, hurricane Harvey made landfall on the American Gulf Coast in August and rolled through Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky. More than 200,000 homes were damaged or destroyed and 77 lives were lost. At the request of the American Salvation Army, Canadian Salvation Army EDS units were deployed to respond to the needs of survivors and emergency responders, which included the well trained and experienced Janice Keats and Louise Armstrong from the Maritime Division.

With less than 48 hours’ notice, I found myself on the way to Corpus Christi, Texas to provide relief and support to residents displaced and disheartened by hurricane Harvey. Upon arrival, we were briefed and assigned a canteen truck and prepared to trek through neighbourhoods to deliver meals.

We spent several days in Bayside, one of the communities worst hit by the storm, where we served upwards of 900 residents a day. Many came out to greet us to accept meals and would engage in warm chit-chat, even though the debris of broken trees and metal roofing from damaged homes was all around their yards and walkways. One would think there was no time for conversation but, amazingly, there was always time for gratitude. As brief as it was, we felt we were making a difference by offering hope. We were recognized in public places, too. Even at local restaurants, warm remarks of gratitude flowed from the patrons as they passed by.

Each time we approached a new community, we couldn’t help but gasp at the damaged homes and businesses. The debris along many roadsides was bulldozed into enormous piles of wood, roofing, appliances, furniture and even mattresses. Hundreds of families would have to start rebuilding from the ground up. In the midst of this, I was amazed how grateful and resilient the people were. “Texans are like that!” said one woman whose house was completely destroyed and was living in her vacation trailer.

One of the most memorable moments was the day our team went to the local public beach in Corpus Christi to dip our feet into the water. It was a rare opportunity to break away from the hectic workload. As we returned, a woman who was about to get into her own car noticed our Salvation Army clothing, took the time to voice wonderful comments about the work we were doing. This turned into a heartfelt outpouring of her suffering from the impact of her loss. I offered a hug which ended with six of us huddling together in prayer right there on the beach.

Although my days in Texas were long, hard and hot, I would go back again in a heartbeat and be ready to respond to another disaster of this nature. Seeing how resilient these people were in the face of adversity and sharing what hope we could has provided me with memories that will stay with me forever.