Am I my brother’s keeper? Yes.


Twelve years ago, Hurricane Katrina sat in the warm waters of the Gulf Coast for five days. The record warmth of the gulf waters fueled her fury as she grew into a category 5 hurricane.

Hurricane winds always spin around the eye of the storm in a counter-clockwise motion. As a hurricane approaches land, this causes the winds on the right side of the storm to push a wall of water toward the shore. Known as the storm surge, this wall of water can sweep away anything in the hurricane.s path.

As Katrina pushed ashore, the storm surge was estimated to be 25 feet high. The lower two stories of many coastal buildings were literally swept away by the storm surge. Homes were swept from their foundations.

Many people who did not evacuate were swept from their homes. The hurricane-strength winds and storm surge devastated the gulf coast.

Shortly after the storm passed, the flood levies that were designed to protect New Orleans failed. A huge portion of the city drowned in the waters that poured into the city from Lake Pontchartrain.

Hurricane Harvey was different than Hurricane Katrina.

Certainly, the powerful winds and storm surge ravaged the Texas coast, but the big difference was the amount of time that Harvey sat over the coastal areas of Texas and the amount of rain Harvey dropped.

In one area, it was estimated that over five feet of rain fell during the storm. Usually, a hurricane will hit the land and continue to move. The storm will then rapidly weaken as it leaves the coast. Not so with Harvey.

Harvey made landfall near Corpus Christi. He barely moved inland. He just sat there – dropping huge amounts of rain. Then Harvey reversed course and moved back toward the gulf waters, strengthened and returned to land near Huston – dropping more and more rain. Harvey became the greatest rainmaker of all time.

Now, what do we do? We do whatever we can to help our brothers and sisters in Texas.

Twelve years ago, I was a member of the Disaster Medical Assistance Team from Dayton that was assigned to take over the emergency room operation of the Biloxi Regional Medical Center. Our compound was set up in a parking lot directly across from the BRMC emergency entrance.

Late one afternoon, as I helped staff the patient intake area, a van pulled up. It had several long folding tables strapped onto the top of the van and appeared to be loaded with stuff.

It reminded me of one of the comments that we often heard from survivors. Most of them thanked God they were alive. Then they would often say, “We lost everything, but that’s just stuff. At least we have our lives.”

That van was one of the first signs I saw that America was committed to returning stuff to the survivors of Katrina.

Two volunteers hopped out of the van, unstrapped a table and quickly set it up. They opened the back of the van and started removing boxes of supplies — baby food, pampers, flip-flops, t-shirts, shorts, cans of food and cases of water were quickly piled on the table.

I explained that we were part of a FEMA medical unit and couldn’t be responsible for monitoring or maintaining their table full of stuff.

The response was beautiful. He said, “Oh, we don’t expect anyone to monitor these supplies. Anyone who wants anything can just have it. We’re from a church in Alabama. This is our donation to our brothers and sisters. We’ll be back. We’ll refill it as often as we can.”

They did.

We started encouraging patients to take whatever they needed. The beauty of it was that mothers with children would take baby food and diapers. People who had arrived barefooted took flip-flops, but no one took more than they needed. They tried to make sure there was always enough left for the next person

We can’t all drive to the coast and set up tables filled with supplies, but we can all work to make sure that our brothers and sisters who are suffering in Texas are cared for. It will take months for them to again feel normal.

Until then, they have immediate needs that must be met. They need food and water. They need clean clothing and a dry place to stay until their homes dry out and are cleaned and repaired.

They need lots of help!

Rather than trying to provide direct help, send money. Make donations to organizations that have perfected the process of assisting disaster victims — The American Red Cross, United Methodist Committee on Relief, Samaritans Purse, The Salvation Army.

Support the collection and distribution efforts of many local faith-based and business organizations. They know how to get it done.

Bottom line… we have brothers and sisters in need. Let’s work together to take care of them.

Randy Riley is President of Council of Wilmington.

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Randy Riley

Contributing columnist