I've been thinking about … "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner."
"Water, water, everywhere, and all the boards did shrink; Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink."
When Samuel Coleridge wrote those words in 1797-98, he was talking about a ship becalmed at sea after being driven off course by terrible storms. Those same words have been looping around in my brain since the reports about Hurricane Harvey started coming in from the Texas Gulf Coast.
Those poor people. This event is a catastrophe that will rule their lives for months and affect their lives forever. Yes, the boards will shrink as well as the drywall, mold and mildew will fill noses and affect allergies, cars are ruined and precious pictures, mementos and family heirlooms are gone forever. Infrastructure, including hospitals, emergency services, law enforcement, roads, bridges, dams, levees, water, sewer, electrical and technology services are either severely compromised or completely destroyed.
Homes that were never in a floodplain and therefore carried no flood insurance will need major repairs. The first responders have done a herculean job of rescuing people and animals way beyond normal human endurance. Perhaps they have set a new standard for human endurance. I salute them and the legion of volunteers who could have stayed at home, safe and dry but chose instead to risk life and limb to help neighbors. Even with local, state and federal agencies doing their best to respond in a timely manner, it is the people next door and down the street who were there first and able to save lives.
I was amazed at the first reports of the "Cajun Navy" but then the logic of it hit me full in the face. Who better than Katrina survivors, small boatmen and women from New Orleans and the surrounding Louisiana parishes, to offer a helping hand. I remember that during Katrina, many people from Louisiana evacuated to Texas and apparently many stayed there. What goes around, comes around.
And speaking of lessons learned from Katrina, let me put on my Community Foundation hat for a moment to give a piece of advice. The national response to this catastrophe has been wonderful. Locally, the Carroll County Sheriff's Office has already done a fundraiser for the relief effort and I'm sure there will be others.
During Katrina, seven tractor trailer loads of goods from Carroll County were sent south. That included bottled water, animal food, diapers and baby formula, and other household and personal use items. They did not all reach their intended destination because of a lack of distribution centers in Louisiana.
So here's the advice. Don't send stuff, and be sure what you do send is as close to the ground as possible. By that I mean, make your contributions to organizations you know. Catholic Charities, the United Jewish Appeal, and United Way, all are represented in that area. Another good idea is to give to the Greater Houston Community Foundation. (5120 Woodway Drive, Suite 6000 Houston, Texas, 77056, www.ghcf.org). They have already raised over $34 million for flood relief. You can bet that, just as it would be here in Carroll County, every nickel they raise will go to help people affected by the flood.
Audrey Cimino is executive director of the Community Foundation of Carroll County. She writes from Westminster.