Texan Belmont students respond to Hurricane Harvey
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Texan Belmont students respond to Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey made landfall near Corpus Christi, Texas, on Friday, and has since caused at least 21 deaths and billions of dollars in estimated damages in its wake.

As the Category 4 hurricane moved inland, Houston was hit particularly hard — in part because Houston is one of the largest cities in the path of the hurricane. Houston also did not order evacuations until it was much too late.

“It sucks because you’re stuck here and you see all these people back home — they’re in their boats and they’re helping everyone out,” sophomore and Houston native Nolan Galbreath said. “On the flip side you see all of these people who are losing everything. Clothes, food, pets, even houses — everything. And you know you’re just kinda stuck up here and all you really see are the pictures of the city underwater on Twitter and Instagram, and you know there’s nothing you can do.”

Many Belmont students have ties to the affected areas and are feeling the trauma of this disaster on a personal level. Texas is the second most common home state from the past two incoming freshman classes, according to Belmont admission statistics.

Senior Ella Cox lived in Houston for nine years. While her friends and family are safe, she said she still struggles to watch footage of the destruction on the news.

“I’m just trying to keep occupied because I know that — even if I was there — there’s nothing I can do to make people that I know any safer. I just kind of have to wait it out,” Cox said.

Senior Jenna Nicholson has also struggled to watch the devastation from afar. Before the hurricane had even hit Houston, Nicholson started seeing videos of the tremendous damage and dangerously high waves near her family’s condo in Galveston, Texas.

“Galveston is one of those places that brings everybody from the greater Houston area together; everybody goes there,” said Nicholson. “I’ve gone there my whole life and I have so many emotional attachments there.”

“It’s really devastating that there could be some very serious damage to a lot of places that I grew up going to.”

Past hurricanes and tropical storms have helped prepare some Texans for a storm like Harvey, said sophomore Reilly Ellsworth, whose family lives in Humble, Texas.

“After Ike in 2008, the whole neighborhood flooded. My dad got a giant generator in the back that could power the whole house, so in that sense we’re prepared power-wise,” said Ellsworth.

But in areas such as Corpus Christi, where past hurricanes had not caused severe damage, some people were more hesitant to prepare adequately or even heed evacuation warnings.

Belmont junior and first-year transfer student Rhys Dreyer had to convince his dad to evacuate from Corpus Christi.

“I had a few frantic phone calls with my family. It feels a little better now that they’re evacuated of course, but it’s unnerving knowing that we don’t know what will happen to the house or anything like that,” said Dreyer.

Since being away from home during such a large crisis has been especially difficult for many students, Belmont Provost Dr. Thomas Burns addressed the hurricane in an email to students and faculty Monday afternoon.

“Please let us know if you are experiencing any financial, housing or related burdens due to Harvey. In addition, whether or not you have experienced personal loss, we know that a tragedy like this can cause emotional stress. We strongly encourage students feeling overwhelmed or anxious to utilize Belmont’s Counseling Services,” Burns wrote.

As people waited to see the full effect of the hurricane this weekend, Belmont students expressed prayers and concern for their peers on class Facebook pages and across social media.

“When it comes to natural disasters, everyone knows that they’re awful, but until it hits home, whether it is people you know or your legitimate home, it is such a surreal moment,” said freshman Heather King.

King, who is from Dallas —  a city outside of Harvey’s path — said it’s important to empathize with students who have been affected.

“You just have to remember to put yourself in those people’s shoes and try to understand how it would feel to be in the situation like that.”

Along with Belmont students, the greater Nashville community is rallying around Texas.

Local Nashville business like Project 615 are joining in the effort by donating a portion of their profits to flood relief. The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee has also set up a Hurricane Harvey Fund to encourage donation in Tennessee.

Houston also has plenty of local ways to help from afar. Anyone can donate to The Greater Houston Community Foundation, United Way of Greater Houston or The Salvation Army.

For more specialized help, people can donate blood to the Red Cross, give to Feeding Texas, SPCA of Texas or Texas Diaper Bank.

For students struggling emotionally with Harvey, Belmont Counseling Services can be reached at www.belmont.edu/counseling/ or by calling 615-460-6856.

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Written by Bronte Lebo. Additional reporting from Harrison Baldwin, Sara Scannell and Zach Gilchriest. Photo from Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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