On Friday, August 25th, a Category 4 Hurricane named Harvey made landfall on the Texas Gulf Coast. While spared the brunt of the storm’s winds, in the following days, Houston would be pummeled with an unprecedented amount of rain.
There are more than 5.6 million people in the Houston metropolitan area; all of them affected by the storm in some way. Here are three perspectives from Six Footers in our Houston home office.
As both a native Houstonian and games industry recruiter, I often wonder if my actual title should be “City of Houston Reputation Bulldog.” According to the Texas Film Commission, Houston is considered a remote and rural hub for game development. Most of the candidates recruited hail from other states, bringing with them stereotypes of Houston/Texas that just aren’t true.
The facts are definitely there - Houston is large, flat, hot, and humid most of the year. However, I find it surprising (and often amusing) when talking to candidates who have never visited before. I try to conceal my smile over the phone as they explain in detail their perceptions of Houston - grand prairies, rolling tumbleweeds, wild horses, and let’s not forget the cowboys. Despite the reputation held by outsiders, Houston is a magnificent gem-of-a-city who shined exceptionally bright during a nine day stretch of no sunshine and torrential downpours.
In light of this tragedy, Houston came together in a way that was almost unimaginable. I suspect part of it has to do with the sticky humidity that bonds us all together somehow. 8th Wonder Brewery had convoys that went into flooded neighborhoods and rescued those who were stranded, accompanied by other boat owners who volunteered to be heroes (some traveling from as far as Louisiana). Mattress Mack of Gallery Furniture and Buc-ee’s Gas Station/Convenience Store opened their doors to first responders and those with nowhere else to go. The Houston Texan’s darling, JJ Watt, started a fundraising campaign that raised over 37 million dollars.
I had never heard of the term “Survivor’s Guilt” prior to this storm, but I assure you it’s real and it hit me hard. I got dressed, put on my rainboots, and decided that I needed to pay back the universe, however possible, in return for my own good fortune during the storm. I walked outside, ventured into the city and saw neighbors helping neighbors, friends helping friends, strangers helping strangers. I showed up at various charities, shelters, and nonprofits all over the city that had to refuse charitable donations and turn away volunteers because there were so many people willing and wanting to help. This was something that I had never experienced before and have continued to be blown away by even weeks later. Any other city would most likely still be under water, but Houston is coming back bigger and stronger than ever. Watch out, world.
Thankfully, my family and I were unaffected by Hurricane Harvey. After a few days, when it was finally safe to drive around my neighborhood, we went to the nearest grocery store and purchased items to donate. To our surprise, the outpour of help and support was so tremendous that we were actually turned away from multiple drop-off locations, due to them all reaching capacity for space! In the same vein, since all the major roadways were still flooded, we couldn’t find a nearby place that still needed volunteers either. H-town really knows how to lend a helping hand!
My family felt the need to help in our own way. We thought the families seeking refuge, as well as the hardworking Hurricane Harvey volunteers, deserved some nice, hot meals. We decided it would be a wonderful idea to cook and deliver Pad Thai to shelters within our reachable area. Rallying a small group of friends, we somehow managed to procure the necessary ingredients, met up at the local Thai Buddhist temple as our operation headquarters, and quickly got to work. The hardest part was actually finding a location in need of prepared food, since most shelters that we knew of were already covered! After our first delivery, the experience was so rewarding that we continued to do this for several days. We were so happy to be able to bring some Thai comfort to our fellow Houstonians who needed it.
Dry clothes? Check. Food and water? Got it. That time of the month? Houston, we have a problem.
After Harvey hit, my friend Naomi and I drove around to many Houston shelters looking for volunteer opportunities. One thing we noticed was feminine hygiene products were frequently requested, but often overlooked. That's when it hit me and the idea of Harvey Hygiene Packs was born. Each bag contained 10 tampons, 10 pads, 1 sanitary wipe, and 3 Dove chocolates. Thanks to our family, friends, and 20 amazing volunteers including Nati Castillo and Karen LeBlanc, we were able to raise $6,305 to assemble over 1000 packs (in our living room, no less) for women in need.
While the last few weeks have been trying at best and gut-wrenching at worst, I know this horrible storm has brought our city closer together and we'll continue to be #HoUStonStrong for many years to come.
In total we received a record breaking 50 inches of rain; a year’s worth of rainfall in five days. The deluge flooded 40,000 homes, destroyed an estimated one million cars, and caused more than eighty deaths. Tragic, but not as tragic as it could have been, thanks to remarkable efforts by city and county services.
Even more remarkable was the tremendous display of humanity we witnessed first-hand. As CEO Matt Ballesteros wrote in a letter to all Six Foot employees, “We witnessed a family coming together. A family rising without question to face adversity and to offer helping hands. It was awe-inspiring to see a group of individuals not hesitating to ensure that each of us were safe and on the road to recovery.” We don’t claim a monopoly on good Samaritans, but we are proud to say we are in good supply.
Thank you to all of our neighbors who came to our rescue. Thank you to all of our friends across the globe for your aid, kind words, thoughts, and prayers. And thank you to all of the Six Foot employees who have been working hard to raise money for fellow coworkers affected by the storm.
To our fellow Houstonians and Texans, thank you for looking after each other. Six Foot is honored to call Houston its home.