by Rahman Nasir
With Hurricane Florence bearing down on the Caroline coasts it is important to revisit the lessons of an earlier disaster. About a year ago today, my home city, Houston, Texas, was hit by one of the most devastating storms in our history. The storm affected millions, displaced tens of thousands, caused billions in damage and close to 100 deaths. It also brought the entire city of Houston together. Hurricane Harvey showed me that during our hardest times, we will forget color, caste, and creed, in order to support and stand for each other. During our darkest days, while we may not have access to food or shelter, a light will illuminate in our hearts, in which we open our doors to our neighbors and stand together.
During this storm, I was lucky to be involved in some disaster relief efforts with my group, The Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association who had partnered with the charity, Humanity First. During our groups efforts, I personally witnessed some amazing things happen. Around the time Hurricane Harvey hit, racial tensions were extremely high in our country. All these tensions were left in the background early on in the relief efforts. There was a major focus on boat rescues of those who were stranded in their homes. I saw rural confederate flag bearing Caucasians boat rescue families of African American decent and I saw African Americans rescue Caucasian families. This came at a time where the nation was severely divided early in President Trump’s presidency.
After boat rescues our focus shifted towards clean up efforts. During these efforts, I saw neighbors working together to break down walls that had been damaged by flood waters. All this while there was talk of building walls to “protect us” from our neighbors.After a long day of cleaning up houses, as a Muslim, me and my group prayed in a local church. This came happened while there were talks of a “Muslim Ban.”
On one occasion, while we were working in a low-income neighborhood which was hit really hard by the storm, a random man pulled over his car and asked if he could work with our group. We were happy to have more help and inspired by the dedication this person had to his neighbors. This exemplified the humanitarian spirit that I saw among so many people.
During our relief efforts, I made a lifelong friend named Matt Crowley. Before Harvey, me and Matt were living lives that would never have crossed paths. He saw a tweet about our organization, and signed up to help. So Matt Crowley, who is a Catholic from Boston, Massachusetts, drove his jeep 30 hours, and worked with his Muslim brothers for 2 weeks non stop. While we were covered in mold and dirt, after working all day in the humid heat, there was a sense of comradery and unity that kept us going.
In this time of devastation, it is important to keep these lessons of brotherhood and unity in mind. With them, we grow stronger together and are defined by our resilience in the face of such disasters. Without them, we will find ourselves falling apart and defined by failure.