In the face of hardship, I’m always in awe of the way Texans show up for one another.
We’ve seen countless inspiring stories of “Texans helping Texans” in the past, and during last month’s winter storms, Texans stepped up to help their neighbors once again in ways big and small.
There are stories like that of Ken Everly, an 82-year-old Air Force veteran from Grand Prairie. Mr. Everly is on hospice care. He relies on a breathing machine to keep him alive and a special air mattress that prevents bedsores to keep him comfortable. When his home lost power, Mr. Everly was in serious danger: the breathing machine cut off and the air mattress deflated, leaving him struggling to breathe on an iron bed frame. His son-in-law, Nate, pleaded for help on Facebook, and within hours, help arrived.
Nate said, “I don’t know where it came from, but a generator showed up.” Thanks to the generosity of a stranger, Mr. Everly once again had his breathing machine, a comfortable mattress, and heat in his home.
The best part of his story is it’s not unique. There are countless others like it from Texas’s February freeze.
Jeep drivers in North Texas teamed up to offer free rides to and from work for health care workers and first responders. Restaurants across the state offered free food to folks without power. And countless Texans shared offers on social media to deliver warm meals, bottles of water, and a range of other supplies to those who needed them. But those instances of neighborly help are nowhere near an exhaustive list.
Another big issue folks faced is a lack of safe drinking water – a need Houston-area breweries stepped up to fill. The breweries already had a supply of clean water on hand for their brewing process, and they spread the word to their communities: come by with a container and we’ll give you clean water. These breweries collectively donated thousands of gallons of clean drinking water, completely free of charge.
Across Texas, churches, schools, nonprofits, community centers, and local organizations opened their doors as warming centers. One of those warming centers is operated by Houston’s most beloved furniture store owner, “Mattress Mack.”
Dating back to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Mattress Mack has opened the doors of his stores to provide food and shelter to those impacted by severe weather. Again during the winter storms, his Gallery Furniture was open around the clock for Texans to stay as long as they needed – whether that was an hour for a hot meal or for several nights.
These stories are a reminder of the strength and generosity of Texans, and an encouraging reminder of the endless amount of good that still exists in the world.
But let’s not forget those Texans who had already been punching above their weight to keep our state safe and healthy during the pandemic.
First responders and 911 dispatchers went above and beyond the call of duty to get people to safety. Health care workers continued battling the pandemic while dealing with the power outages, staffing shortages, and water disruptions caused by the winter storm. Utility workers and energy providers worked day and night in dangerous conditions to restore power and safe drinking water to Texans.
And millions of unsung heroes have helped their fellow Texans get through these dark days – checking on elderly neighbors, helping drivers whose vehicles were stuck in the snow, welcoming people into their homes, donating supplies to those in need, and so much more.
The outpouring of love exemplifies a quote I heard some time ago from a Texas county commissioner. He said, “Being a Texan doesn’t describe where you’re from, it describes who your family is.”
I am grateful to the countless Texans who have supported their communities during this crisis. I want to thank everyone who has supported our state in ways big and small over the past couple of weeks, and who will no doubt support our efforts to come back stronger in days to come.
And I want to assure my fellow Texans that I will continue to support ongoing response efforts in any way possible.