WHO: Countless Texans and folks from around the globe who stepped up—even as basic public services (and public servants) failed—to take care of one another in a crisis.
WHAT: A seemingly endless stream of fund-raising, personal acts of kindness, and other good deeds that reveal what it means to be a Texan.
WHY IT’S SO GREAT: The week of February 12 to February 19 in the year of our Lord 2021 is one that few Texans are liable to forget. But during the Great Winter Blackout, as during Hurricane Harvey and other crises, Texans stepped up to take care of one another.
Let’s start big, with the famous names. A huge array of stars and celebrities found various ways to ensure that Texans had a hot meal, clean water, or a warm coat as they waited for conditions to improve. James Harden, the recently traded former Houston Rocket, detailed his efforts for Space City residents in need after Sunday night’s game. Beyoncé—no stranger to helping out Texans in need during emergencies—stepped in to offer cash relief grants to financially stressed Texans, working with various brands and nonprofits to get $1,000 checks in the hands of those who need them most. Mattress Mack, of course, opened his Galleria Furniture store to those in need of a warm bed or couch.
So it was throughout the state. Longhorns legend Colt McCoy partnered with faculty at his alma mater’s journalism school to feed students barbecue and breakfast tacos, distribute bottled water, and pass out gift cards to aid in the recovery process.
Out-of-towners who in an ordinary year might be gearing up to visit Austin for South by Southwest instead focused their energy on feeding residents of their favorite city in which to take a working vacation; this was perhaps best exemplified by a confused-but-grateful tweet from city councilwoman Natasha Harper-Madison, who thanked famed dance music producer Diplo for his gift of more than a hundred pizzas for volunteers and guests at a water-distribution facility.
In Dallas, those who rallied to the cause included Mark Cuban, Luka Doncic, and Dak Prescott, as well as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who bought a new roof for the city’s Genesis Women’s Shelter.
In San Antonio, a number of Spurs players and other local figures offered their support. San Antonio–based H-E-B, of course, stepped up as well—including, after an unexpected power outage at its Leander location left customers in the store without a way to pay for their groceries, by letting shoppers take the carts full of supplies home gratis. (Many shoppers paid the generosity forward by sharing the contents of their carts with others.)
Well-resourced entertainers, athletes, corporations, and literal royalty weren’t the only ones who found ways to help their neighbors, though. Mutual aid organizations—informal, nonprofessional groups that provide communities in need with support—leaped into action statewide. In Dallas, one collected laundry for residents who couldn’t wash their clothes without water; in Raymondville, Willacy County Neighbors Mutual Aid Fund served up hot breakfast; in San Antonio, Para Mi Gente distributed more than $32,000 to 232 local families to buy groceries, pay for hotel rooms, and cover health-care costs, capping their donations to avoid taking on more than they could pass out. These networks quickly grew increasingly ad hoc; in Longview, ATV enthusiasts defied police and took their vehicles on the road—not for joyrides, but to check on elderly residents and distribute groceries to their neighbors. In Austin, an off-road enthusiast became a one-man rescue operation, deploying his custom 2010 Chevy Silverado (nicknamed “the Beast”) to rescue about 500 stranded motorists.
Individual acts of kindness abounded throughout the week. Maybe you were one of the Texans who opened a room to a friend or neighbor without heat, or maybe you slept on the couch of a coworker or neighbor who never lost power. Around the state, folks ran extension cords from outlets in their garages to the street, so those without power could charge their phones and other devices, or they set up folding tables on the sidewalk to pass out bottles of fresh or safely boiled water. On neighborhood-based Facebook and Nextdoor pages, those whose freezers had been full served up however many chicken fajitas or bowls of chili they could spare. It’d be impossible to single out all of those who did what they could to care for their communities, because that’s the entire story of Texas over the past week.
There is one story we’ll leave you with, though. In Southlake, Zoya, a curious yellow Labrador, went exploring the iced-over swimming pool in the backyard of the house his family had been staying in after suffering a burst pipe in their home. He walked along the ice carefully before making it to the corner of the pool, at which point he crashed through and into the frigid water. Another family dog, Leo, immediately sought help, barking to alert owner Rajat Sharma of his companion’s situation. Sharma rushed to the pool and pulled Zoya out of the water, at which point the dog began zooming around the yard to warm up. This past week, many Texans have, alternately, been Zoya and Leo—in need of help and eager to provide it—and that’s what makes the people who live here the best thing in Texas.
Everyone give a shout out to Leo! His barking alerted his North Texas family that Zoya, another family pup, had fallen through the ice in their frozen backyard pool. Zoya was rescued and hopefully Leo got some extra treats for it! pic.twitter.com/7AcTPEHdo9
— J.D. Miles (@jdmiles11) February 19, 2021