I was talking with one of the reporters Friday morning, telling tales about some of the interesting things I’ve photographed and reported on in almost three decades as a professional journalist.
This conversation actually played off some thoughts that have been running through my head over the past few days, particularly as I viewed images and read reports coming out of my old stompin’ grounds in Deep East Texas. I’ve noticed a few things hitting the news wires and social media, headed north, some good and some not so much.
My first experience with a hurricane and how it affects the Gulf Coast was Hurricane Katrina in 2005. While Nacogdoches – the town I worked in – wasn’t hit directly, we did experience the flood of refugees fleeing New Orleans and other parts of southern Louisiana and southeast Texas.
I distinctly remember, standing in a motel room, talking to a couple from New Orleans. The television was tuned to one of the national news stations – I don’t remember which one – showing live aerial footage as the levies broke and water poured into the city.
“Oh my God, that’s our neighborhood,” the woman said quietly.
A moment passed and the image on the screen shifted.
“And that’s our house,” the man said, with such a sense of resignation, a ‘What will we do now?’ in his voice, I was almost brought to tears.
In the intervening years, the region I used to call home has been hit – either directly or on the fringes – by several hurricanes of varying strength and intensity. And now, another has made its way through the region, laying waste to areas I’ve been to many times.
And the stories and images coming out of the Houston area are tales of immense sacrifice, true humanity. The man carrying a woman and her child from the floodwaters, the Cajun Navy plying those same waters in their personal boats, saving people from pending doom.
And, as the storm makes its way north and east, and the flood waters begin to recede, there are reports of a virtual flood of another kind – trucks and trailers and hordes of people, flocking to the south in droves, taking their own personal time to go and help.
But not all the stories are positive: There are reports circulating, for example, of looters shooting at members of the Cajun Navy and attempting to steal their boats even as they made their way through flood-ravaged areas, searching out stranded survivors.
That’s just one of may examples of so-called “humans” (and I use the term here specifically loosely) sinking to the lowest common denominator even as those around them were soaring to great heights.
I’ve reported on and lived through natural disasters of every stripe. I walked the streets of tiny Van, Texas, on Mother’s Day Weekend in 2015, scant hours after a massive tornado destroyed almost half the community. I watched as people, still in shock, began the long process of picking up the pieces and rebuilding their town, their homes and their lives.
On a side note, I got to thinking as I was working through the days delivery of e-mails. Among the literally hundreds of communications I receive every week – some we won’t talk about – was yet another missive from Nebraska’s Republic Senator Adrian Smith, discussing one of many in a series of “listening sessions” he’s either hosted or been directly involved with to hear from his constituents regarding what could be arguably one of the most important pieces of legislation coming next year, at least for this area – the upcoming Agriculture Act of 2018. Or, as it’s more commonly called, the next Farm Bill.
I’m not going to get into the ins and outs of farm legislation or dip into the ongoing debate of who gets what and what programs should be cut. I’m just going to ask a question.
I’ve frankly lost count of how many announcement and post-game commentaries and the like I’ve received from Sen. Smith over recent months. But I can’t seem to remember receiving anything of the like from the Wyoming legislative delegation.
I’m just saying.