By Howard M. Wedgle
September 10, 2017
While we in the Denver metro area experienced sunny skies on August 25th, with temperatures in the upper 80’s, Houston and surrounding areas were pounded with over 40 inches of rain from the catastrophic hurricane, named Harvey.
At the writing of this article, Hurricane Irma, is wreaking havoc on south Florida. Rated a Category 4 hurricane, these storms uproot people, boats, trees and are deadly. The death toll from Harvey was over 70 people and Irma, even before hitting Florida, was probably that much.
While we watched the suffering Houstonians were experiencing, we also saw good Samaritans, who rushed to save strangers as the water rose. Several organizations, including the Red Cross, several firefighter companies and including a team of volunteers from Israel’s Zaka search-and-rescue organization helped with the cleanup in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
There were non-professionals too, who went to Houston, just to help out.
Close to two dozen high-school seniors, along with college chaperones and staff, from Skokie’s Fasman Yeshiva High School volunteered several days last week to assist Houston’s Jewish community with hurricane relief efforts. One of those seniors was my son. The trip was organized by Rabbi Joshua Zisook, who is the school’s director of admissions along with CEO Rabbi Shmuel Schuman. Rabbi Schuman commented that the school includes eight students from Houston as well as alumni from there. “With those connections and the magnitude of the destruction, there was a sense of not wanting to be observers,” he said. “we wanted to be players.”
I briefly spoke to my son about his experience there. An abbreviated & edited interview with my son is below:
Howard Wedgle: What did you see when you arrived?
JW: When we drove to the neighborhood where we helped out, all you see on the streets, at the curb, is debris from the houses: mattresses, pieces of flooring, dresser drawers. That sort of thing.
HW: What did you do to help out?
JW: Mostly rip out damaged carpet, take down damaged walls, packing & organizing.
HW: The homeowners you met, what were they like?
JW: Some were in shock, but very appreciative of the work we were doing. They offered bottled water. Obviously, they weren’t able to stay in their own house, so they either stayed with friends/family or were able to get an apartment.
HW: What does the future look like for them?
JW: Most of the city is a disaster. It will take a minimum of six months to get back to where they were.
HW: Personal thoughts on your time there?
JW: I spoke to a kid, my age, who took out his boat to go to neighbors to help them out of their houses. I was extremely impressed by him. It was such a surreal situation. It motivated me.
This proves that no distance is too far, when it comes to lending a helping hand.