Students help rebuild Houston after Hurricane Harvey aftermath

Lilly Casolaro

News Editor

While Hurricane Harvey tore apart much of the Houston area, it brought Troy students, faculty and the Troy community together for a common cause.

A group of about 15 men traveled to Houston on Friday morning to assist with Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.

The team collected all items that had been donated on the Troy campus and in the community and loaded five trucks for the travel.

Joe Payne, a senior economics major from Skipperville and president of Lambda Chi fraternity, said his time in Houston was “humbling.”

“The news was pretty accurate about everything that was going on, but nothing could have really prepared you for the damage witnessed in person,” Payne said. “It was really humbling.”

He said that the group brought 120 cases of water, along with hygiene items, and dropped them off at a church that served as a donation center.

The church was responsible for donating and distributing the items to community members.

The Troy students then divided into groups and helped to rebuild and repair houses.

“There was one house, like the size of Trojan Arena, that was completely flooded,” Payne said. “We mostly helped with tearing down drywall and flooring of people’s homes.”

Over the course of Friday night to Monday morning, Payne said the group assisted in rebuilding six to eight houses.

Ryan Renfrow, a senior broadcast journalism major from Alabaster, described his experience helping a family who was affected by the flooding.

“This family had been in their house for over 20 years, and they chose not to leave,” Renfrow said. “When I asked them why they stayed, the father replied, ‘It’s just not that easy; we have been here so long, and we wanted to stay with the house.’”

Renfrow said the family did eventually evacuate when the flooding rose.

According to Renfrow, many of the people they talked to in Houston said that it will take a lot of work to rebuild, but they are thankful.

“Even in the midst of losing everything, people were still so hopeful,” Renfrow said. “I was blessed to be able to help.”

Renfrow said he did not really know any of the men whom he traveled with.

“It was just a bunch of different guys who didn’t really know each other, but it was really cool to see everyone band together for the betterment of Houston and the people of Houston,” Renfrow said. “It was really awesome to see all of us come together for a common cause.

“I think it took us about 17 hours to get there because one of our trucks carrying a trailer actually broke down twice.”

At this time Payne is uncertain if another team will return to Houston in the coming weeks.

Maryjo Cochran, professor in the Hall School of Journalism and Communication, said that she has been directly and indirectly affected by the aftermath of the hurricane.

Cochran’s son, John, was caught in the middle of the storm and was trapped in his house for 12 days due to the flooding in the surrounding area.

“He (John) was fortunate that it (the flooding) was not in his driveway,” Cochran said. “I think the hardest thing for him was being trapped and not really being able to get out and help anybody.”

Though he experienced power outages, Cochran said, her son is now OK.

“I don’t think most people realize the emotional toll it takes on people when they are faced with something like this,” Cochran said.

According to Cochran, President Trump’s visit, along with the actions taken by authorities and business owners, “that kind of camaraderie and the spirit of oneness really hit home for the people.”

“It will take years for Houston to bounce back, but it will,” Cochran said.

“Anyone that you talk to who lives in Houston and the surrounding area will know at least one person who lost everything,” Cochran said. “It just makes you mindful of what you have.”

Cochran worked at Sam Houston State University and lived in the area for 13 years.

“I can’t tell you how many of my former students had houses in Galveston (which is closer to the coast) that are no longer there,” Cochran said.

Cochran said the people of Houston have a positive outlook.

“They all have this very positive attitude that is infectious,” Cochran said. “If anything, the United States needs more of that.”

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