We Just Came Together as a Team
There is never a good time for a flood, but some times are worse than others. When a major hurricane is headed straight to the other side of your state and resources are already allocated to that tragedy, you have to improvise quickly.
In the days preceding Hurricane Ike, Presidio faced serious trouble. Flooding was destroying levees and the city was shoved into a perilous predicament. Water quickly rose as the Rio Grande compromised the integrity of the levees and dams. I worked closely with Judge Jerry Agan and Mayor Lorenzo Hernandez to initiate plans of immediate aid for the area. With the harbinger of Ike lurking at our Southeastern shores, it took a great deal of navigation and hurdle-jumping to get a Disaster Declaration for Presidio County. With the declaration, we were able to initiate the Office of Homeland Security's immediate and concerted effort to save the city. In order to successfully rebuild, it was imperative to work with the Governor's office to ensure inclusion in calculations of financial assistance for disaster-declared counties.
In the midst of the floods, the scope and speed of Homeland Security's statewide emergency response team was beyond impressive. Jack Colley, Chief of the Governor's Division of Emergency Management, leads the hundreds of thousands of state agency, county and city employees along with volunteers. The core workforce team in Presidio was comprised of 100 people who pulled together and worked nonstop, side-by-side, 24 hours a day, for seven long days. They focused intensely on repairing and maintaining the integrity of the levees and dams which were already dangerously compromised by weeks of fast, heavy river flows and were critically fragile when they were hit by the initial surge of uncontainable floodwater. That was the beginning of the "bad seven days".
Throughout these "bad seven days" the team had to fight long and hard under constantly risky foxhole conditions. They had to vigilantly rescue and protect each other, as well as the levees, from the overwhelming threat of the flood. The levees were slammed and punctured by the huge debris pounding down the river as well as being breached and ground-down by the rushing water. Mud and standing water made heavy equipment impossible, so they were constantly reinforcing and repairing the sodden, over-topping dams with human effort only.
The team just wouldn't accept the fact that it was an impossible task. They were not going to fall back and quit fighting, and they held the crumbling mud walls together with sandbags and force of will, until the water subsided. Finally, they turned around, took a deep breath, and started putting Presidio back together.
My heart goes out to this brave team for saving this beautiful and historic city. Their spirits persevered through a seemingly unachievable mission. Without them Presidio simply would not have survived, and for this we are forever indebted to them. The cooperation and collaboration during these trying seven days are the stuff of legends. We still have Presidio because we just came together as a team.
Carlos I. Uresti is the State Senator of District 19 representing approximately 700,000 people in the largest geographical senate district in the contiguous 48 states. Senate District 19 spans a 23 county area stretching along the U.S.-Mexico border, from San Antonio to El Paso County. Covering 55,000 square miles, the district contains 62 school districts, spans two time zones, and is larger than 24 states and 25 countries.