In Wake of Disaster in Texas, West Teachers and Students Extend a Helping Hand


By Divitya Vakil and Sonja Malek

On August 25th, Tropical Storm Harvey made its way onto US shores, hitting the southeast Texas city of Rockport at its full intensity. The effects are catastrophic. As of the 30th, at least 39 people have been pronounced dead and there may be more to be discovered as the authorities search their ways through waterlogged homes and flooded streets.

What makes Harvey different from other tropical storms and hurricanes is the amount of rain that poured down continuously. It could potentially also be the costliest natural disaster, estimates claiming $190 billion in damages.

“Parts of Houston, the United States’ fourth largest city, will be uninhabitable for weeks, and possibly months, due to water damage, mold, disease-ridden water and all that will follow this 1,000-year flood,” AccuWeather president Joel Myers said.

President Donald Trump took a trip to Texas on Tuesday to meet with officials in Austin and Corpus Christie, but did not visit places that were damaged by the storm. Trump “spent far more time in the air than on the ground,” Politico reported. Which “gave the optics-obsessed president some of the visuals he wanted, as he checked in on the government apparatus working on relief efforts and was buoyed by a roaring crowd of locals.”

Vice President Mike Pence, however, went to Texan cities that were affected to meet and console survivors.

“We promise you, we’re going to stay with you every step until we bring Southeast Texas back bigger and better than ever before,” Pence told a crowd, according to Dallas News. “You’ve inspired the nation by your resilience and by your courage. We’ve just come to commend you and encourage you.”

Here at West, several teachers are getting their students involved in donation and relief efforts. English teacher Sharon Swanson is encouraging her students to donate money to help those struggling in the aftermath of Harvey, promising to match their donations dollar for dollar.

“I think that everyone should take initiative and help in whatever way they can,” Swanson said. “In my class, I’m collecting donations from my students and I’ll match it, and a lot of other teachers are doing things to help too.”

For Priyal Soni, a senior and former student at Niles West who moved to Houston, Texas just two weeks ago (and one week before Harvey), the disaster was unexpected and alarming.

“Fortunately, I was in a relatively safer area. However, we still had nonstop thundering and storms for four days, plus multiple flood warnings and tornados,” she said. “My dad was actually working when it hit, and he was stuck in the city for a couple days until the floods went down.”

Although flooding was predicted to occur, Soni believes the full effects of the storm were not anticipated.

“The situation in general is just tragic. I don’t think anyone was hoping or expecting it to be this bad, and so when it hit, a lot of people were in shock,” she said. “It displaced a lot of people, and the extent of the damage is unreal.”

In a time of hardship for hundreds of thousands of Americans, several organizations and individuals are stepping up to help those affected, whether it’s through monetary donations, volunteering, or other efforts. Visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency website to learn more about the situation in Texas and to find out how you can get involved.