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Houston Hurricane Harvey Relief Trip (2017): Day 2

Skyler Hallgren | OCT 4, 2017

Day 2

Day 2 in Houston took us to a fairly different neighborhood, and gave us a reminder that natural disasters don't discriminate by data-class, race, social status, or anything else - it hits wherever it chooses. The home we were working on today belonged to a Vietnam vet that was currently in the hospital having surgery. You could tell the neighborhood was a nice one before Harvey struck, but there was more damage here then we saw the previous day.

Our job was the same - tear out everything that had been flooded. In this house, we had to tear out everything under 8ft. That meant drywall, insulation, cabinets, framing, appliances, kitchen and bathroom fixtures - it all had to go. Even worse, the storm had torn a hole in the roof, so a significant part of the ceiling had to be torn out as well. In some places, the mold had started climbing higher, so we had to tear it out to the ceiling.

Part of our crew was the same as day 1, with a few additions. Pedro, originally from Colombia, but living in Houston for the last 18 years, came to volunteer his day off. A couple from Chicago that took 5 days of vacation to help out. Also working for the day were Ben and Huan - All Hands Volunteer staff that were working a job site on their days off. Ben had been in Nepal working with AHV's earthquake response there, and had amazing stories to tell.

One of the most impactful experiences happened while eating lunch at a nearby Subway. A lady stopped by us on her way out to thank us for our service. We were severely confused, looking around for military personnel, or someone we felt would merit such a statement. She saw our confusion and explained her story. She had been asleep when the flooding started. When she woke up, she found she was the last person in her apartment complex. When she tried to leave, she found a flooded stairwell - there was no way out. She hung out of her window trying to signal for hours until someone noticed her and got help.

The only way to reach her was via helicopter - the rescue team let down a harness and she had to step inside and secure herself. Once she was in, the helicopter literally picked her up and dropped her off outside the flood zone. She is in her late 60s or early 70s, so this was very traumatic. She was so thankful to us for just being there to help. She had folks working in her building that day too, and was at Subway picking up lunch for them. We were embarrassed to have her thanks, but it really stuck home how thankful people in a disaster zone are when strangers show up and help. It was great motivation to finish the day strong.

After two days working with Jordan, we learned more of his story. He starts a new job in November, and had a gap of two months before starting. He had planned on playing a ton of golf through September and October back home in Kansas City. 

When Harvey struck Texas, he decided that he was young, able-bodied, and should go help those who needed it. So he loaded up his truck and drove down to Houston. He had been there a week when we met him, but still had 2 months left.

He tells it in his own words...