In times of emergency, most people focus on the safety and well-being of their immediate family and loved ones. A special group of local residents go beyond that tight focus and serve the community at large.
First responders — law enforcers, firefighters, paramedics and others spend their professional lives charging into situations that cause most people to flee. Often they put their own lives at risk in their efforts to secure the public’s safety.
The dedication these people show every day was most evident during the June rainstorms that caused massive flooding throughout the Rio Grande Valley, especially the Mid-Valley. Their efforts warrant consideration for AIM Media’s annual Rio Grande Valley Citizen of the Year award.
A wave of rain swept through the Valley June 19-21, dropping as much as a foot of rain per hour in some places. And it just wouldn’t stop. Drainage systems couldn’t handle the deluge, widespread flooding covered cars, swept through homes and closed streets. Parts of the Valley, especially in the Weslaco area, would remain underwater for days.
State and federal disaster declarations were made, and some areas reported damage greater than that caused by Hurricane Dolly in 2008.
From the onset of the floods, local police, sheriff’s deputies and state troopers took to the streets to report inundated areas and rescue stranded motorists. Dispatchers were flooded with calls for help, even as they coordinated officers’ movements on other lines. County road crews joined Texas Department of Transportation workers to set out barricades. Fire and emergency medical workers were dispatched to move homebound residents to safer places.
It was a massive challenge, but it was met with a massive response from people at all levels. Many dealt with problems in their own jurisdictions; others, through interlocal agreements, helped address the needs of neighboring communities as well. And most of them probably had family worrying about their own safety and perhaps wishing they’d chosen another line of work.
In all, agencies that helped ease the effects of the massive flooding include police and fire departments in Brownsville, Los Fresnos, Harlingen, Mercedes, Donna, Weslaco, McAllen, Edinburg and Mission as well as others; Cameron and Hidalgo counties’ sheriff’s departments and emergency management centers; the Texas Department of Public Safety, TxDOT and Texas National Guard; the U.S. Border Patrol and others.
In addition, countless unnamed private individuals offered help, volunteering their efforts, trucks and Jeeps to help stranded drivers, driving fishing boats to find and rescue people in their homes, and calling to provide information to emergency crews and news media.
Living in a hurricane corridor and along a major river, local residents know that unexpected weather crises are possible. No one wishes for such catastrophes, but it’s comforting to know that if and when an emergency strikes, we can count on local workers to put public safety ahead of their own, and help those who most need it.
Nominated by The Monitor Editorial Board.