- By Jeremy Schwartz
- Nick Wagner American-Statesman Staff
When Statesman photographer Nick Wagner and I pulled into the Live Oak Learning Center on Saturday we found one of the grimmest scenes we had encountered during our time in the hurricane zone.
The school, an elementary school serving as Harvey-ravaged Rockport’s only shelter, was without power, but overflowing with residents. Most had already lost their homes and most of their possessions and were sleeping on floors or cafeteria tables and in dire need of medicine, bedding and food.
Directly in front of the shelter, as if to sum up the situation, a battered Dodge Ram pickup sat submerged in several feet of water. If the truck could talk it would say: ‘This is all pretty hopeless.’
We left the school and spent the next 24 hours reporting in Fulton (where we saw the charred hand of the only confirmed resident to die during the hurricane’s landfall), Port Aransas and Corpus Christi. But it was hard to shake the memory of what we saw at that Rockport shelter.
On Sunday afternoon, we went back and found an amazing sight. As we drove down Griffith Drive, we saw a Texas National Guard tanker finish pulling the truck out of the murky ditch. Its front end was dented all to hell, water dripped from the engine block and muck clung to its tires.
And then we saw a man in a baseball cap and grizzled beard put a key in the ignition. The thing started. And then he pressed the gas - the old beast rumbled forward, gaining speed. “Got it out! Yeah yeah!” bellowed the man, grinning from ear to ear as he sped away.
There was good news at the shelter as well: all the displaced residents had been taken on buses to drier land in cities away from the coast. The shelter was shuttered and will hopefully soon begin serving its rightful role as a school for Rockport’s children.
As we drove out of town, we passed building after building that had received near catastrophic damage. On one, someone had spraypainted a simple message: