Once again, Mother Nature showed us just how brutal and indiscriminate she can be. The storm raked the Texas coast in late August, devastating places like Rockport, Port Aransas and Aransas Pass. And then its leftovers tried to drown cities such as Houston, Beaumont and Port Arthur.
It turned the lives of so many upside down – literally destroyed some. People will be spending the coming months and years trying to put everything back together as best as possible.
The storm, once again, showed us how we as a people can be so compassionate – how we can drop everything we are doing in our own lives to help others in such dire need.
For me, it also underscored that we have some extraordinary people in our profession. And for me that is so humbling.
Nearly 30 years ago, I was in Harlingen covering Hurricane Gilbert with colleagues from the now-defunct San Antonio Light. In retrospect it was an easy assignment. I just had to follow the instructions:
Take plenty of quarters for pay phones; take plenty of reporter’s notebooks and food and lots of gallon-jugs of drinking water. Hunker down in a command center as the storm hits. When the hurricane’s eye arrives and things calm, run out, survey the damage, interview anyone you can find and get back to the relative safety of the command center before the eye passes. Call in your notes to someone on “rewrite,” or another reporter or editor manning the City Desk back in San Antonio. And do it all over again once the hurricane has finished pounding your area.
Just follow those rules -- stay safe, work hard and fast, and be aware. Stay focused.
I say it was easy, because I was there to focus on covering someone else’s tragedy.
I don’t know what I would have done if I had to cover the tragedy that hit me.
But that is exactly what happened to so many of my friends and industry colleagues whose lives were slammed by Harvey this past August. And what they did was nothing short of amazing.
Ken Esten Cooke, publisher and editor of the Fredericksburg Standard-Radio Post, did a beautiful job documenting some of this in his Sept. 6 “Texas Type” column. There is a no way I could give as thorough and wonderfully written an account as did Ken. His column, which everyone needs to read, appears on Page 11 in this edition of The Messenger.
All of this has me thinking a lot about an editor’s conference I attended years ago, during which a guest speaker told us that ours was not just a job. It is a vocation.
“We do God’s work,” he proclaimed unabashedly.
Members of newspaper staffs in places like Port Aransas and Cuero and Victoria and Houston and Galveston gave credence to that claim. They chose to check their own shock and grief over what had befallen them personally to inform the communities they serve and to help those communities survive, cope and persevere.
And to be sure, these communities will rise from this devastation. For long after the national spotlight has focused somewhere else, people I am proud to call colleagues will be toiling to put their own lives back together.
But they also will be spending as much time, if not more, plying their own special version of “God’s work” to help the communities they serve do the same.