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Texas

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

So much has happened this past month. We painfully watched the violence that erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia, ripping open the deepest wounds due to racism and discrimination. The rhetoric that erupted about that horrific event has been scandalous. Hate and violence can never be tolerated, no matter what the politics. There is no moral equivalency between neo-Nazis, white supremacists in the KKK and those protesting in support of racial and social justice for all.

As the nation finally settled down after the violence in Charlottesville, Hurricane Harvey ravaged the south of Texas and Hurricane Irma devastated south Florida and the Caribbean. They were two of the worst hurricanes to hit the mainland in a decade. We saw pictures of devastation everywhere. Thousands of people were displaced and lost everything. Families were traumatized throughout Texas and Florida. The aftermath and cleanup is overwhelming and it’s just beginning.

Despite that landscape of destruction and suffering, there has been an outpouring of compassion, love and community service from around the country. So many have stepped up to reach out to those who are suffering and struggling. There have been countless stories of strangers reaching out to strangers, people volunteering and risking their lives to rescue those who were stranded due to the dangerous flooding and amazing stories of people opening their hearts and their homes to those who have been displaced.

It is unfortunate that it takes a catastrophic tragedy like a hurricane to bring out the heart of our American spirit. Hurricane Harvey has become a rallying cry for unity in healing. So many are hoping that this spirit of solidarity and compassion can become contagious and continue beyond the relief efforts in Texas.

Hopefully, those who lead us will see the power of this life lesson, work harder at crossing over the island of separation and begin to build new bridges of understanding and dynamic cooperation for the sake of our nation.

The end of DACA was also announced at the White House through the attorney general’s office. Unfortunately, more than 600,000 undocumented young people must live their lives in limbo and anxiety, producing circumstances that no young person should be afflicted with.

These DACA youth did not choose to come to America — their parents did hoping to find a better way of life for them. For most of them, this is the only country they know. They are hard-working, and many of them are well educated. They definitely add richness to the fabric of our nation, which was founded on immigrants. Hopefully, Congress will step up, do the right thing and pass a law that will protect them and their future.

The summer’s end has also seen a real escalation in the heroin epidemic within our larger community. Unfortunately, with all that has been happening around the country, this national health crisis seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle of life.

Within a 10-day period, I have buried five young people who have died from heroin overdoses. Each young person came from a fine family but was burdened with this horrific affliction; and I am only one clergy person in our area. In talking to other colleagues, they have seen much of the same.

Everyone is on the bandwagon saying we need to do more to confront this horrific epidemic. The politicians are claiming there are monies in the pipeline. Well it must be clogged because there are still no new beds for treatment, no new medical detox centers or any new long-term residential rehabs for those battling opiate addiction. Enough of the rhetoric! If you had a son or daughter burdened with a heroin addiction, what would you do? You need a bed now! Where would you go? There are no beds! In three weeks when a bed might be available, your son or daughter could be dead.

Outpatient treatment is ineffective. Heroin addicts need more than a 28-day program. For the record most insurance companies will only now pay for 11 days — that is scandalous and reprehensible! When are we going to hold our insurance companies accountable for all of the senseless loss of life that their internet policies have contributed to? The time for talking is long past. We need action yesterday to protect our children today!

Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

A dog is rescued from flood waters of Hurrican Harvey in Texas. Photo from Mark Freeley's GoFundMe

After internet sensation Storm, an English golden retriever, saved a drowning fawn from Port Jefferson Harbor, now owner Mark Freely is looking to help others.

Last Chance Animal Rescue is teaming up with Freeley’s North Shore Injury Lawyer and volunteer Jeff Segal, owner of Boom Event Source, to help thousands of animals affected and displaced by Hurricane Harvey.

Freeley is an animal adoption event leader, foster and pro bono attorney for Last Chance Animal Rescue on Long Island. He said the organization has a truck leaving next Wednesday, Sept. 6, being driven by Segal’s friend transporting all needed supplies to Texas, according to an email from Freeley.

There is a need for donations of dog and cat food bowls, leashes, collars, collapsible crates, cat litter and disposable litter pans.

“Last Chance has already stepped up to donate many of their existing donations to help these animals who are in dire need,” Freeley said of the Southampton-based nonprofit. “Donations will help us to send these items to Texas, and purchased items can also be donated to us.”

Items to be donated must be handed in no later than Sept. 5. Items can be brought to Freeley’s law office at 144 Woodbury Rd. in Woodbury from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., to Boom Event Source located at 11 Michael Avenue in Farmingdale from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. or to the Last Chance adoption event at the Selden Petco Sept. 2 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

A truck will be dropping off supplies to the George Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas, which is housing over 400 animals and 8,000 people, to San Antonio Pets Alive Rescue and some will also be dropped off at St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison, New Jersey, which will be taking in 200 displaced rescue animals from the Texas flooding.

“They are so desperately need our help, and as much as possible,” Freeley said. “The animals of Texas are counting on us.”

Freeley has already collected $2,200 from 41 people in less than 24 hours after creating a GoFundMe page to help the cause. The current goal is $3,000.

“Thank you for helping these poor animals,” Danielle DiNovi said with her donation.

“God bless the victims of Hurricane Harvey,” wrote Geri Napolitano with a contribution to the cause, “both big and small.”

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Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the enormous energy of Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm for a time, could be harnessed to serve later in some practical way, perhaps to light the city of Chicago during one of winter’s darkest weeks?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the unending rainfall brought by Harvey, in some places in Texas more than 50 inches already, could be captured, stored and brought to areas that are arid and desperate for water?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the disastrous effects and ruination caused by Harvey could somehow bring Americans back together, red states and blue states, conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats, forgetting their anger and moving compassionately together to help the tragic victims of our fourth largest city?

Wait, I think destructive Harvey has done just that.

Am I imagining, or did I hear one of our more bellicose representatives, from Long Island no less, promise to bury the hatchet and vote aid for the state of his longtime adversary, despite not having received such aid in our time of terrible need? And wasn’t he bragging about his empathy?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the unprecedented flooding caused by Harvey could incredibly make the prospect of nuclear war with Kim Jong-un secondary at the top of the news hour, beneath the fold on the front page of the daily newspaper and in the public consciousness?

Yes, it happened like that. Even President Trump disappeared from the news for a time. Harvey it seems, terrible as it is, can do strange things.

But the cost, in human agony, is catastrophic. Millions of people throughout the Gulf Coast have had their lives smashed, and that certainly is the main story for America this week. We have been glued to the television, watching the families with little more than the clothes on their backs, wading through the waist-high water to meet a rescuer in a rowboat, their homes behind them flooded to the windowsills. Where will they sleep? What will they eat? Will they have enough water? Did they remember to bring their medicines? Are their other loved ones somewhere safe?

So far, the number of wounded and dead has been low, certainly compared to the horrors of Katrina. But there are all sorts of wounds. Most of the people we see on the screen seem remarkably calm but are most likely in shock, trying to make sense of how their lives have violently changed. For some, their houses are totally gone, smashed and washed away in the floodwaters. For others, their homes will have to be razed to the ground because of mold and rebuilt — if there is money to do so. Unlike with Katrina, where some 50 percent of the homes were insured, it seems only around 20 percent in the Houston area have flood insurance. Businesses, restaurants, automobiles, jobs, whole neighborhoods are gone. Addresses mean nothing because streets are buried. Valuables and memorabilia of a lifetime have floated off. But most residents are “lucky”: They have escaped with their lives, their children in their arms.

The victims of Harvey have been grievously wounded. Our entire nation has been wounded.

We have, for now, lost a wide swath of the South, the ordinary, productive lives of the people who lived there and the many resources they gave us, from rice to oil and gas. After concerns for food and shelter are met for those rescued, there is the real threat of infectious disease, pollution and even the possibility of crime. And how will the affected states dispose of all the garbage Harvey will have left in its wake?

In some ways the rescue operation is a mini-Dunkirk. Good Samaritans, using all sorts of recreational vehicles, pickup trucks, fishing boats, motorized rubber dinghies and even Jet Skis, have rushed to help people trapped on roofs, in attics and in trees. The giant volunteer rescue effort, alongside official disaster responders, is a testament to the courage and basic decency of people throughout the country. 

No one was asked whom he or she voted for. America, there is hope.

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