It sometimes takes a disaster to bring out the good in people. The massive Hurricane Harvey that hit the Texas coast on August 26 was one such case. The outpouring of help for and rescue of the storm’s victims revealed one of the best aspects of the American soul.
ABC News reports on this with this title: “Hurricane Harvey: Heroes rise to the occasion to help rescue those stranded by storm.”1 The video tells of a family who has taken twenty neighbors into their home.
Fox News reports on this aspect of the American soul in its article, “Hurricane Harvey: Ordinary American heroes inspire.”2 The video embedded in the online article shows pictures and video footage of regular people helping others out of the dangerous waters.
The New York Times talks about it also in its online article, “Moments of Hope and Inspiration Rise Above the Chaos of Harvey.”3 It is illustrated by a picture of a man rescuing a small boy with his paddle boat amid torrential rain. One video in the article is subtitled “Stories of Heroism.” It documents story after story recorded by social media of dramatic acts of valor amid the life-threatening storm.
Daniel Victor of The New York Times writes, “More than any hurricane before it, Harvey struck at a time when almost anyone can document their own experiences through social media. The world has been able to see some of the dramatic rescues and acts of altruism that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.”
Houstonia Magazine online refers to this aspect of the American soul with its article, “The Heroes of Hurricane Harvey.”4 The article includes a series of pictures of heroic acts. It includes the now famous picture of a Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy collapsed from fatigue after a long day rescuing people in high water areas. He is shown sleeping on the floor, propped up against a counter with a bag of charcoal as an arm rest and with his waders still on.
An interesting thing about these individuals mentioned in the news is that many are not government officials. Rock Long, FEMA Administrator in an ABC News interview5 said, “The way emergency management works is, all disasters begin and end at the local level. They decide the mission priorities. They work them up through the State. Our support is designed to help the State to achieve those goals.”
Indeed, government institutions can only do so much. Much of the “grunt work” was done by charitable individuals whose only reward was most likely a “Thank you” for efforts that were often done at their own expense.
The Houstonia Magazine report also includes a picture of a long line of trucks hauling fishing boats to the flooded areas. This is the famous “Cajun Navy,” a community-organized group of Louisianians which, as a makeshift flotilla of volunteer rescuers in 2005, used their own boats to help evacuate thousands from Katrina-stricken New Orleans. When flooding again hit Louisiana in 2016 they rescued thousands more. Now they decided to drive out to Texas at their own expense to help out.
The heroics of Hurricane Harvey were a welcome relief from the uproar over the clash in Charlottesville. The mass media have turned the incident into an occasion for dividing America into two fringe camps: the white supremacist “alt-right” or the Antifa left. Most Americans want nothing to do with either one and as author John Horvat points out in his article, “The Growing Tyranny of the Culture-killers,” they want a moral solution that is outside the media’s framing of the issue.
As Mr. Horvat further mentions in his book, Return to Order, many Americans still retain an attraction for honor, charity, faith, concern for others and a deep-rooted sense of sacrifice. These virtues give rise to the acts of heroism that were witnessed during Hurricane Harvey.
A rescue in the Houston area performed by the Texas National Guard, August 29, 2017.
(Courtesy of the Texas National Guard)
This spirt of heroism is so contrary to the frenetic intemperance of a modern, egotistical culture that promotes comfort, pleasure and entertainment. Where does this willingness to sacrifice for others come from? It does not come from the mainstream media or Hollywood. It does not come from schools or the pop culture.
It can be undoubtedly traced to the profound influence of Our Lord Jesus Christ’s death on the Cross. No other historical event has marked the hearts, minds and souls of the Christian West more than the death of Christ, Who taught, “Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
English author George Alfred Henty, known in his time as “the prince of story-tellers,” says this about heroism: “To be a true hero, you must be a true Christian. To sum up then, heroism is largely based on two qualities- truthfulness and unselfishness, a readiness to put one’s own pleasures aside for that of others, to be courteous to all, kind to those younger than yourself, helpful to your parents, even if helpfulness demands some slight sacrifice of your own pleasure…you must remember that these two qualities are the signs of Christian heroism.”
This heroic aspect of the American soul is profoundly marked by Christianity. It is very refreshing to see. Each act of heroism inspires and causes admiration. Disasters will come and go. It will be years before Houston can recover from the damage wrought by Harvey. However, one thing is consoling and hopeful. People saw the real face of America. It was not the ugly masked face of the Antifa or supremacists. It was not the selfish face of the pop-culture. This face was that of “heroes,” of which America can be proud.