HARLINGEN — Rick “Big Cat Trucker” Sylvester says he has never carried a shipment as important as the one he delivered Sunday morning.
Sylvester, a Harlingen resident, pulled into the grounds of a rescue shelter outside of Moore, Okla., sometime after 8 a.m. He was at the wheel of a tractor-trailer loaded with supplies for tornado victims donated by residents of the Rio Grande Valley.
“It was a very humbling experience, honestly, just to see how happy the people were when I got here,” Sylvester said by phone.
“When I opened up the doors of the trailer and they saw what the Valley had done, and taken the time to donate, they were just overjoyed.
“I mean, one man got so emotional, and it made me emotional, too.”
Sylvester works for Royal Freight of Pharr, which teamed up with Valley media — including KGBT-TV, KURV 710 AM, the Valley Morning Star, The Brownsville Herald and The Monitor — as well as the American Red Cross.
Over the course of this past week, the partnership collected supplies for the victims of the tornado, which killed at least 24 people, including children, injured hundreds and damaged thousands of homes as it plowed through the city of Moore the afternoon of May 20.
Sylvester left Harlingen about 2 p.m. Saturday and stopped in Dallas for a couple of hours of sleep before continuing on to the shelter near the scene of the devastation.
“When we pulled up, just the sight of a big rig pulling up full of items to help out, I mean, it was just an emotional moment,” he said.
The trailer was loaded with clothes, food, water, toilet paper, paper towels and lots of other items for relief, he said. “Anything that you can think of, I had in the back of the trailer,” he said.
The moment made him proud that he lives in the Valley.
“I’m really proud of everybody in the Valley,” he said. “I think everybody really stepped up. We really showed over here in Oklahoma the spirit of the Rio Grande Valley, you know, just how we love people.”
The trip, he added, was a personal milestone for him.
“I do this every day, all day, all around the United States. I’ve been doing this for six years now,” he said.
“But this one delivery, I mean, really just brought it home, wow, this is why I do this.”
Ed Asher is assistant city editor for the Valley Morning Star in Harlingen. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.