In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, which devastated southeast Texas ten days ago with cataclysmic flooding, college students across the country are organizing relief efforts. As floodwaters recede, the magnitude of Harvey’s fatal impact becomes clear, and Manhattan College students are mobilizing to help victims in any way they can.
The Student Athletic Advisory Committee (SAAC) hosted a clothing and shoe drive where they collected items to donate to college and high school students affected by Harvey. The turnout was abundant.
Maddie Arndt, a senior and president of SAAC, emphasizes the importance of relief efforts.
“SAAC, backed up by our entire athletic department, decided it was just the right thing to do to donate a lot of our old Adidas gear to those in need down south affected by this disaster,” Arndt said.
“They need any help they can get, and if we can give our old clothing and gear to athletic departments and all people affected by the storm, then maybe other people will follow and do the same. It’s not a community service act for us, it’s our moral obligation to help others.”
Vincent Terrone, a 2016 graduate of MC who is currently living in Houston, said the devastation he is witnessing “is hard to describe in words.”
Terrone almost lost his vehicle in the hurricane. Residents in his building also faced similar struggles.
“At some points of the site, the water was knee deep and difficult to walk through due to the strong current southward. Residents that have lived in Houston much longer than my one year stated that they had never experienced flooding at the complex before and the flooding caught them by surprise,” Terrone said.
Terrone currently works at ExxonMobil.
“I am extremely proud to work for an employer that has taken such swift action to aid residents of Texas and Louisiana. ExxonMobil had more than 23,000 employees affected by Hurricane Harvey, and to assist in relief efforts the business has committed more than $9.5 million to help those in need,” he said.
Terrone is directly involved with rescue and recovery efforts that ExxonMobil is spearheading. While hope is bleak right now, Terrone believes that Houston will recover.
“Over the course of this weekend I have been managing the logistics of clean-up supplies and PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) to help support employees in need. Additionally, as an engineer supporting facility operations, I’ve been working closely over the last week with the rest of the Global Real Estate and Facilities (GREF) infrastructure team to restore our Houston Campus for operation. The road to recovery will be long and arduous, but I know my fellow Houstonians have the resolve and resilience to help one another and rebuild,” he said.
Brother Jack Curran, FSC, Ph.D, who serves as the vice president for mission, reflects on the horrors of the storm, but also on the beauty of the humanitarian efforts that have taken place in its wake.
“As the scope of the flooding and conditions worsened over the past week, I believe we all became more and more mindful of the fragility of our lives and the goodness of humanity in responding to the needs of others,” Curran said. “So many times haven’t we seen media reports of generous hearts reaching out to help their neighbors.”
According to an article by CBS News, at least 45 people have been confirmed dead as of Sept. 3. As for the economical damage, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, has said that his state will need federal money for relief of at least $125 billion.
Natural disasters like this, Curran notes, are too often deemed as a “regular occurrence” that happen all over the world each year – heavy monsoon rains in Mumbai have killed over 1,200 people this week alone. However, Curran focuses on those who see the importance of coming to the aid of others.
“One of the heartening things about the Manhattan College community is that we are not alone – we have so many thoughtful people eager to be of service and to express solidarity. As we would say in our Lasallian lingo, ‘indivisa manent’ – ‘we remain united,’” Curran said.
A number of individuals, offices, student organizations, and departments at the college are currently developing ways to help Texans.
Student Government, the Office of Student Engagement, and the Office of Campus Ministry and Social Action are currently working to coordinate efforts by getting in touch with student governments at colleges and universities in the Houston area.
They are also planning to gather this week, Curran brings up, “to coordinate efforts so as to be as helpful and efficient in providing meaningful assistance, both physical and emotional as well as spiritually to those who are impacted by the devastation brought on by Harvey.”
As many on campus are doing everything they can do help those in Houston, many Jaspers call Texas home as well.
“Concerning the destructive effects of Harvey in Texas and some direct connections with Manhattan College, we have faculty and staff colleagues who are from or have Texas connections – and of course we have current students and alumni from Texas as well. I understand we have about 10 current students from Texas and 525 Jasper alumni in Texas as well, about 106 of whom are in Houston,” Curran said.
Esther Gonzalez, a junior education major, is from San Antonio, which is about 160 miles from Houston.
While Gonzalez’s family did not have to evacuate because they are a safe enough distance from the coast, she was still nervous for them as heavy rains were headed their way.
“With the evacuation, the hurricane itself didn’t reach a Category 4 until it was about to hit ground. So being from Texas, we weren’t really worried or preparing until the last minute. I think people who were about to evacuate did and those who couldn’t, prepared to the best of their ability,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez felt heartbroken for those living in Texas at the heart of the storm.
“The citizens were told to write their name and social security on their arms and I think that’s when it really hit that it was going to be bad. I am not at all surprised that citizens were out looking for their fellow friends and strangers after the storm,” she said.
“Everyone in Texas is so friendly and willing to always be there for each other regardless of race, gender, religion, anything. Every Texan loves Texas so much and I think this hurricane really brought everyone together and showed that nothing is going to destroy the state we love.”
Returning home for Gonzalez is somewhat discomforting – as of right now, 30 percent of southeast Texas is underwater, according to The New York Times. However, Gonzalez is comforted by the fact that there are so many people willing to help.
“I’m always anxious to go home because I realize that life does go on, good and bad, whether I’m at home or school. But more than anything, I’m proud to go home. I’m proud to call Texas my home. It is beautiful and amazing how much everyone came together,” she said.