Houston, Harvey and Heroes

Dara LevanBlog22 Comments

I am in South Florida right now. I’m feeling inexplicably grateful for the scorching, sweltering September Sunday. That sounds kinda bizarre, right? We rarely go to the beach, which is evident by my pale skin. (My friends in college actually called me Snow White!). But today we headed east. My husband suggested we go to the boardwalk and stop at the organic market. And I am so glad he did.

My daughter rollerbladed, my husband ran, and my son and I walked together. I detest the heat and humidity. I know. How in the world am I a native Floridian! I prefer to be outside between October and May. Although we left the house early, with the hopes of milder temperatures, the sun shone on my face and sweat trickled down my neck. As we walked, I watched the water glisten.

Today I felt even more present, even more blessed. I thought about Hurricane Harvey and the aftermath. Floods, power outages, scarce supplies, and so much more. I’ve been there. I’ve lived through multiple hurricanes. My heart hurts for the thousands of people who are scrambling to return to some sort of normalcy. As I write this, I realize that Irma lurks at sea, and she may head our way.

My daughter asked if she could dive into the ocean. I said absolutely! She did not have her bathing suit—my free-spirited teen was fully clothed. She said, “Mommy! This feels so refreshing! You should come in, too!” I captured this sweet, spontaneous moment with my camera. As she splashed in the sparkling water, I continued to snap photos. Seagulls squawked and soared in the cloudless sky.

I inhaled the salty sea air. I thought about those who’ve given generously the past few weeks to help people in Houston. I’ve read many heartwarming stories of families donating money, food, and various items. I’ve heard about corporations that are giving significant funds, too. I quietly thanked the people of our country for joining forces to support one another.

Then my mind floated to an unexpected, powerful conversation I had with a friend this week. Let’s call her “Erin.” I cannot stop thinking about it. We were chatting on the phone about something silly. She abruptly said, “That’s my husband. He’s called a few times. I hope everything is ok. Let me call you right back.” I felt dread. I heard concern. I was worried. I rearranged the food in my pantry in an attempt to use my nervous energy productively.

A short while later my phone rang. I answered it immediately. Erin’s tone of voice shifted drastically. It sounded heavier than just minutes ago. Erin is typically energetic, upbeat, and hilarious. She said, “That’s the call I was hoping I wasn’t going to get.” I said what do you mean?

Erin told me that her husband just got word that he received orders to go to Houston. In. Four. Hours. I figured oh. That’s just for a few days, right? She explained that he joined a particular team of firefighters and paramedics. He has specialized, high level training that is needed. And she never knows when he will come home. Erin quickly ended our call.  She picked her kids up early from school and drove with them for over an hour in traffic so they could hug their daddy goodbye.

My kind, strong friend has three children under the age of 12. They were all violently ill just a few days ago with a stomach virus. I said, “What can I do?” She said nothing. I sensed that she meant it. I asked her, “Could he say no, I am not going?” This is when my breath caught in my throat. Erin, who is a fierce, fiery force said, “Well. He could. But. He wouldn’t. And that’s another reason I love my husband so much. He’s trained in some skills that Houston really needs right now.” We continued to talk in more depth. I learned so much and developed in seconds an even more profound appreciation for these special souls.

For the first time in my life, this really hit home. Hard. I thought about my children. I pondered a situation like hers. What if my husband told me, with just a few hours notice, that he was leaving to help with a potentially dangerous disaster? Erin’s husband was putting his life at risk, as he had many times before, to save others.

My eyes filled with tears that night as I shared this with my husband. Waves of fear and worry pounded my chest as I spoke. These emotions pulsed in my veins like the cardiac life support I knew Erin’s husband has performed in the past. And he may need to now as well.

I have always had tremendous admiration and respect for first responders. They are like real-life superheroes! My father is a surgeon, and he’s worked in trauma for years. Some of the gentlest and bravest souls I’ve ever met were the paramedics with whom he has worked.

On one simple, thankfully non-life threatening call, I had such a positive experience with firefighters. A few years ago, I came home with the kids. Nobody else was home. Every smoke detector in my entire house was honking loudly like a gaggle of high-pitched, obnoxious geese. It scared me a bit, but I didn’t want the kids to freak so I distracted them with random topics. I immediately got the dogs and the kids outside. I called 911. It was rather bizarre.

Three tall, towering men arrived in less than 15 minutes. They were soothing and methodical. They searched the entire house. No smoke. No fire. None of us could figure out why the blaring sounds continued. At this point, the kids were a bit curious and concerned. These sweet men patiently answered questions and explained about the importance of safety. I also loved witnessing their bond. Their brotherhood. After they left, I thought about another time I’d seen how tragedy unites these responders.

September 11, 2001. Yet another unforgettable and devastating day in our nation’s history. Again. These selfless souls scaled buildings and saved lives. I remember exactly where I was the day this happened. I was four months pregnant with my son. I had just pulled up to the school in which I was a speech therapist. The sorrow and shock I felt that day and months later still cannot be expressed in words. And I also clearly recalled heroic search and rescue teams. I couldn’t imagine how they managed their own emotions nor how their physical bodies somehow functioned on so little sleep.

I thought more about the brief, but intense, informative interaction with Erin. I again couldn’t stop thinking about how in seconds her life can and does change. She had to tell her kids that their daddy was leaving for an undetermined amount of time. My chest felt tight. My hands felt cold and clammy. I had the chills. I also felt such compassion and concern for her husband. Jaime must come home depleted. Exhausted. I imagine he and so many others return not the same as when they left. Sounds of sorrow and scents of burning must be hard to extinguish.

I texted this extraordinary friend a few hours after our phone call. I told Erin how lucky her husband is to have such a confident, supportive life partner. Paramedics, fire fighters, and all the other first responders are crucial to our country’s survival and existence. I am continually touched by their selflessness and service.

But wives, husbands, partners, and families are, too. First responders couldn’t do what they do without strength and stability in their homes. They are rescuing and reviving communities while their own families are left behind. I told her how incredible she is and that I am here for her. Today and always. But I know she — and so many others — possess an inner strength, stronger than any hurricane. I may just be a back up generator to her powerful light.

The heroes amongst us are not always in uniform. They are mothers. They are sisters. They are aunts. They are partners. They are the calm in the storm. They are the grounding forces. My heart is full of gratitude and awe. And peace is replacing anxiety because I just learned that Erin’s husband is coming home to his family soon. I can imagine he, too, is eagerly awaiting the warm, welcoming embrace of his wife and babies.

22 Comments on “Houston, Harvey and Heroes”

  1. As a fire chief’s wife, I thank you for recognizing firefighters, paramedics, EMTs and other first responders as the selfless heroes they truly are. They sacrifice so much for the good of their communities and, when called upon, deploy to disaster areas. Much like your friend, I’ve been through a few deployments. It never gets easier telling the kids that Daddy is leaving and that I have no idea when he’s coming home. Seeing their tears kills me. You are absolutely right–being a firefighter’s wife isn’t a job for wimps or the faint of heart. On the rare occasion I complain about the impact his absences have on our family, my husband will say, “These people are hurting and suffering right now. I would want someone to come and help you and the kids if we were in a similar situation.” It truly is a calling for these men and women. They believe 100% in what they do and how they have a duty to serve.

  2. I am working on a project with my son this weekend about something patriotic. He chose 9/11 and also learned about these brave and amazing first responders who risked their lives to help others. Beautifully written Dara!!!

  3. Beautiful and touching story Dara . I agree that our first responders are superheroes! When Eva talks about wanting to be a superhero when she grows up, I ask her what kind – police, firefighter, paramedic, nurse…the list goes on. Your friend is pretty special too. She has such a good perspective. Grateful for everyone who puts their life on the line to help others. Priceless!

    1. Thanks, B. Yes. My friend IS beyond special. And I’m honored and grateful she’s shared her story with us. Xo

  4. BEAUTIFUL…from letting your daughter dive into the ocean fully clothed, to powerful friendships, to your tribute to those who serve! It’s amazing how very different our lives are depending on where we live, our jobs/careers/callings, whether or not we have children and/or spouses, etc. This encouraged me to stop and give thanks for my many blessing, and send up a prayers for those struggling and those serving!
    Keep Shining SIster, Keep Shining!

    1. Thank you from my ?!!! I am grateful for your encouragement and energizing words my friend! Huge hugs!!! D

  5. Thank you so very much for your inspirational words and thoughts. We have so
    Much to be grateful for, not just today, not just in light of the Houston tragedy, but every single day. Even when we think we’re having a bad day most people would be happy to trade places with us. We are truly blessed. I hope we can keep that thought and let that guide our actions toward others.

  6. Perhaps you’ve found your calling? To share and unite us, with your written words – taking the time to honor and link people you don’t know – and encourage thought and sincere feelings among your community of friends and fans. Thank you for being on the planet and for creating this new venue to inspire us all and to keep us human. XOX.

    1. Thank you from my ???! You brought tears to my eyes, Wendyll! And it is truly my sincere hope and intention that everysoulhasastory.com will connect and touch people globally. Xo

  7. Wow, so well put. So few take the opportunity to thank not only first responders, but the “first families” as well. We should all be grateful for the sacrifices they make to help keep us all safe.

  8. I’ve been browsing online more than three hours lately, yet I by no means found any attention-grabbing article like yours. It is lovely price enough for me. Personally, if all webmasters and bloggers made just right content as you did, the internet shall be a lot more useful than ever before.

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