A Journal Star headline on Sept. 5 read “Task force gets hero’s welcome,” as the collection of firefighters and civilians from Lincoln, Omaha and Papillion known as Urban Search and Rescue Nebraska Task Force 1 returned home from rescue operations in Texas following Hurricane Harvey.
By Sept. 8, they were being deployed again, with that day’s headline being: “Task Force 1 headed to Florida to face Irma.”
But by no means were the 80 members of Task Force 1 the only such team of Nebraskans responding to the destruction two hurricanes wrought in Texas and Florida. In fact, the outpouring of time and talents residents of this state are giving to people down south, whose lives and livelihoods have been turned upside-down by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, has been overwhelming.
Following the worst of what Mother Nature had to offer, Nebraskans, in turn, were among those who replied with the best of humanity.
A map on the front page of Saturday’s Journal Star highlighted 13 cities in four states where Nebraskans answered the call for assistance for hurricanes. They ranged from the tireless first responders from Task Force 1, the Nebraska National Guard and the Red Cross on the front lines of rescue operations to a couple dozen students from Union College helping residents clean up after the storms dissipated.
As Irma’s winds die down and storm surges recede, Nebraskans will also play a role in repairing infrastructure and trying to get Florida back to normal. Technicians and experts from a handful of utility companies recently arrived in Florida to aid in efforts to restore power to some of the estimated 7 million Floridians who lost it during the storm.
Nebraska certainly isn’t the only state to provide the people and resources needed in the immediate aftermath of these back-to-back Category 4 hurricanes. But those who hail from this state and left their friends, families and comforts of home behind – some for the second time in as many weeks – to help those battling natural disasters deserve recognition for those efforts.
The phrase “Nebraska nice” may be overused to describe the Midwestern hospitality on which we pride ourselves here. There’s no equivalent phrase to describe packing up, hitting the road and helping those on the front lines of a hurricane more than 1,000 miles from home – with a potential third assignment to U.S. islands in the Caribbean possibly awaiting Task Force 1.
As Texas slowly begins its journey back to the way things were before Harvey struck and Florida surveys the damage from Irma, they’ll be surrounded by helpers from across the country – among them plenty of Nebraskans doing admirable work.