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Sen. Cruz: ‘Texas Will Rebuild’

from Sen Cruz’s Press Office

  Sen Cruz Releases video highlighting devastation on Texas coast; Delivers Senate floor speech honoring the heroism of Texans, discussing the rebuilding effort along the Texas Gulf Coast, and urging Congress to deliver emergency funding for disaster relief

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) today released a video highlighting Hurricane Harvey’s devastation and his visits along the Texas Gulf Coast in the aftermath of the storm. He also delivered a floor speech in the U.S. Senate to highlight the bravery of first responders and volunteers, the recovery and rebuilding efforts for those affected by Hurricane Harvey, and the critical need for emergency funding for disaster relief.

“The relief efforts are being led by the Texas delegation in the House and by Senator Cornyn and myself here in the Senate,” Sen. Cruz said. “And we will see, I believe, strong bipartisan support for the federal relief needed to help people come out of this. Texas will rebuild. We will come out stronger, and it will be through that same spirit, that same fearlessness, that same compassion and love and unity that brought us through the crisis, that saved thousands of lives. That same spirit will help us rebuild even stronger.”

The full text of his remarks is below:

“Mr. President, I rise today in support of heroes, in support of unity, and in support of love and compassion. I thank the senior Senator from Texas for his heartfelt remarks and leadership during this time of crisis, and I thank leaders across the state of Texas and across the country who are standing with the people of Texas. Texas is hurting. This hurricane, hurricane Harvey, is unlike anything we have seen before.

“I grew up in Houston, when you live on the Gulf Cost you’re used to hurricanes. It’s part of life. I remember as a kid sheltering in the bathroom with my parents when hurricane Alicia hit, we had a tree come down in the front yard. But Harvey was different. Harvey was unlike anything we have ever seen before. Harvey is being described accurately as a 1,000-year-storm, something that occurs every 1,000 years. And in Texas, we’ve never seen anything like it.

“Harvey started out as a category four storm hitting South Texas, hitting Corpus Christi and Victoria and Rockport, Port Aransas, and Aransas Pass, all of which I visited in the past two weeks.

“Those communities were devastated by category four winds that destroyed homes that destroyed schools that destroyed county courthouses, and city halls and buildings. It took down wires and took down power and took down water, and took down sewage. As I visited each of those communities, you drive down the street and you would simply see home after home that had been obliterated by hurricane winds.

“I remember talking to the mother of a high schooler at Rockport High School who doesn’t know where her sons going to go now because Rockport High School has been largely destroyed by the hurricane. She was saying how much the kids wanted to graduate from their high school, but their high school is badly damaged right now.

“But Harvey wasn’t finished after making landfall and wreaking destruction. Harvey then turned north. North and east and moved over the city of Houston and just sat there. Sat there dumping rain day, after day, after day. I was home with my wife and kids. I live in Houston. For every day of those rains, it just kept coming, and coming, and coming. It’s actually what made Harvey different. We’re used to getting hit by a hurricane, and then it leaves and you go and repair the damage and you pick up the pieces. Harvey didn’t have the good graces to leave. It sat there and dumped 27 trillion gallons of rain. Over 50 inches. Which is typically as much as Houston receives in an entire year fell in four days. We saw flooding in parts of the city that had never flooded.

“I went out in an air boat just north of the Addicks dam in Northwest Houston, riding through a neighborhood with water up to the roofs of houses. An ordinary suburban neighborhood, you could see all the vestiges of families playing there. You could see children’s toys floating in the water in the backyards. You could see holes in the roof where either people in the attic had taken an ax and broken to get out, to escape the rising waters. Or where first responders had broken in to get them out.

“We took a boat down Clay Road, a fairly large road in Northwest Houston. I know Clay Road well. I became a Christian at Clay Road Baptist Church. Clay Road is completely under water. It looks like you’re in the middle of a lake. You look out and see nothing but water as far as the eye can see. I rode with a local constable right down the middle of Clay Road, going over cars, but the water was high enough, eight, ten feet high – you didn’t even know when you were passing over cars that were submerged beneath you. As we going down Clay Road, we saw an alligator swimming across Clay Road.

“The scope of this disaster defies words. It’s not one community or two communities or three communities. It is over 250 miles stretching from Corpus Christi all the way to Louisiana. The Houston area alone, the flooding is massive. Neighborhoods where there’s a real possibility every single home will have to be knocked down and rebuilt, every single government building will have to be knocked over and rebuilt.

“On the airboat, I saw the county courthouse up to the roof in water. I saw a local L.D.S. Church up to the roof in water. I saw a gas station, six or seven cars still parked outside. The water was right at the roof of the cars. It shows you just how fast that water rose. That they were parked at the gas station, they had presumably stopped for some last-minute supplies or something and the water rose so high, they couldn’t get out. They are still in their parking spots, but yet the water is at their roof. That same gas station, up high on a door was a red neon sign that said ‘open’ that was still lit, flickering ‘open’ as you looked out over the vast expanses of water. The damage continued going east, hitting communities like Beaumont, like Port Arthur, like Nederland, like Orange, and into Louisiana. All of those communities I visited in the past two weeks – massive devastation.

“Texas is hurting mightily. And yet, as I said my remarks today are not about pain and suffering. They are not about death and loss of despair. They are instead about hope – hope that begins with the heroes of Harvey. We saw, over the last two weeks, incredible illustrations of bravery. Over, and over, and over again every day, every hour, every minute. There were the first responders, the firefighters and police officers and E.M.S. who risked their lives, including tragically, Sergeant Perez of the Houston Police Department who lost his life in this storm.

“He went to go to work – his wife pleaded with him, ‘Please don’t go to work. It’s too dangerous out there.’ He said ‘I have to go. It’s my job to save lives.’ He went, he couldn’t go to his regular duty station. All of the roads were flooded. There was no way to get there. So he went to look for another duty station to report to and tragically he got caught in high-rising water and drowned.

“There were the Coast Guardsmen who flew in in choppers and dove into wild water to save people’s lives. I spent a lot of time in the last two weeks visiting with the men and women of the Coast Guard. What incredible heroes. Flying up in the choppers with them around surveying the damage of the Houston ship channel and talking with Coast Guard swimmers. You want to talk about a tough bunch of heroes. The swimmers, almost every one of them ripped. They are the guys who know their way around a weight room. Who in hurricane winds and hurricane waters will dive off of a chopper and swim to someone in distress. Many times, the person in distress is so terrified, their first reaction is to grab the swimmer and practically try to pull the swimmer under too. So these swimmers have to be strong. Strong enough to help someone terrified and at the verge of death, get in that basket, get in that basket of life and be pulled up to a chopper. In the last two weeks, I visited with person after person that was pulled off of the roof of their home by the Coast Guard into a chopper.

“The National Guardsmen. The National Guardsmen I spent a lot of time thanking them over the last two weeks. We had National Guardsmen, 14,000, called up in the state of Texas. But National Guardsmen from 41 states across the country flooding in. That was part of the story of heroes. It was these first responders, there were a great many Houstonians, a great many Texans from all over Texas, but there were people from all over the country.

“When I drove through Refugio, a small town on the Gulf Coast, been devastated by hurricane winds, I stopped at the fire department unannounced just to come in and thank the firefighters. I actually met a couple of firefighters, they were not the local ones. The local ones they had expelled to go home and get some sleep, after several days of having no sleep at all. A couple of California firefighters had jumped in their truck and just driven east from California to get to Texas. Down in Rockport at the fire station there, there was a whole line of fire trucks one after the other, after the other. And as you looked at each firetruck, on the door, they had the name of a different city. Every one of them had the same story. They saw what was happening and said ‘I can help.’ They jumped in the fire truck and they headed down to Texas.

“The outpouring of love we’ve seen has been extraordinary. Now, Mr. President, it wasn’t just the first responders who were so extraordinary and let me – we will never – we cannot overstate the gratitude that Texas feels for those heroes of Harvey. But I’ll tell you the most powerful story of Harvey, I believe, are the thousands of ordinary men and women that just stepped up to save their neighbors, that went and grabbed a boat or a jet ski or anything that could float and went into harm’s way to pull people out of life endangering situations. Hundreds and hundreds of rednecks in bass boats.

“Texas at its very finest. Mr. President, as an Alaskan, I can promise you, you would have been at home with the rednecks in bass boats. All these guys in duck waders, fearlessly walking into the charging waters, pulling people out, one after the other, after the other. The Harris County Emergency Operation Center, they had an entire wall covered with Post-It notes. Because when the local officials put out a call, ‘If you have a flat bottom boat, if you have a personal watercraft and can help, we need your help.’ Hundreds and hundreds of calls began coming in. They put them all on Post-It’s with the name and cellphone. And then the Emergency Operations Center operated essentially as a dispatch where a 911 call would come in, someone in distress and they would pick up the phone and call someone’s cellphone and say ‘Hey, your neighbor six blocks down needs your help, can you be there?’

“Hundreds upon hundreds risking their lives to save their neighbors. Texans helping Texans. We had among others, Louisiana that sent the Cajun Navy. Over 100 boats. They would go in, save people and they’d cook jambalaya. Now that’s neighborly love. I met people who had come from Fort Worth, from Lubbock, from East Texas, from Oklahoma, from Illinois, from Alaska, from New York.

“I was at the George R. Brown Center, the shelter that was setup. Met an individual there, he was a New York firefighter, a big guy. He told me he was serving in the New York Fire Department on September 11. And he told me when 9/11 hit New York, that tragedy that terrorist attack hit, he said the love that New York received from across the country, the outpouring of support that New York received from across the country, made a profound impact on him. And he said now when there’s a major natural disaster, he just gets in his truck and heads down to help. He said, ‘You know what, that’s just my way of saying thank you. My way of saying thank you for what the country did on September11th.’ He wanted to be down at Harvey and pull people out of harm’s way to say thank you. All I could do was simply give him a hug.

“That heroism was happening every day and every hour. We all mourn the loss of life. There are tragic stories, heartbreaking stories, whether it is Sergeant Perez or the young mother in Beaumont who gave her life saving her little girl. Her little girl was pulled from her dead mother’s chest floating in the water just minutes before being lost forever. As tragic as it is, that little girl will always know the love her mother had for her. The story the senior Senator from Texas just told of the van in Houston that took six to their death, two elderly grandparents dealing with Alzheimer’s disease and four children, all lost their lives in that bayou. Those tragedies we mourn, but I’ll tell you we celebrate also.

“This disaster easily could have seen a death toll ten times higher, 100 times higher. There were recorded over 51,000 people saved by search and rescue missions. Roughly 2,000 pets saved by search and rescue missions. One of the things the first responders told me over and over again is you better be able to take the pets because there are a whole lot of people who as the water is rising, if you’re not willing to take Fluffy or Fido, they’ll stay in the rushing water. And so we celebrate the bravery of all those who risked their lives to save others.

“In any disaster there are three phases. There’s phase number one, the active crisis where search and rescue is the only priority. Saving lives. And let me say the city of Houston, the state of Texas, we saw a coordination across levels of government I’ve never seen before. Of the city officials and the county officials and the state officials and the federal officials all working hand in hand seamlessly. Not engaging in the bickering, not engaging – there were no party lines. There were no Republicans. There were no Democrats. There was no black, white, or Hispanic. There were Texans and Americans saving the lives of each other. And you saw government working seamlessly together, not having the turf wars that in other contexts might so easily shut down getting anything done. Simply saying, ‘How can I help? What can I do? What else do you need?’

“After the search and rescue is over, after the saving of lives, there is the next phase. And that phase is relief. Providing relief to the people who have lost everything right then. We have roughly 260 shelters that have been stood up across the state of Texas. Wonderful, private organizations. The Red Cross has done a phenomenal job. The Salvation Army has done a phenomenal job. Churches have done an incredible job. Private, nonprofits have done an incredible job. Individual citizens. Mattress Mack who owns Gallery Furniture. He’s a friend of mine, a terrific Houston entrepreneur. Opened up his furniture stores as shelters and said, ‘Come on in. You need a bed? We happen to have a furniture store full of beds.’ Not only that, he sent out his delivery trucks to pick people up in harm’s way. At one of the shelters last week, I visited with a woman, an older woman who was on oxygen, and she uses a walker. She described how her house began filling with water. And she walked out of her house in waist deep water pushing that walker.

“Mr. President, my mom uses a walker. I know how difficult it is to get around when you’re mobility impaired. I cannot imagine how difficult it was for her pushing through the waist-deep water fleeing for her life. She was picked up by a Gallery Furniture delivery truck, picked up and taken to the shelter. I called Mack and told him that story. Told him just one story of the lives of he was saving, and that’s just one example of the heroes that stepped forward for their community.

“Anheuser-Busch shut down beer production to deliver more than 155,000 cans of water. Now, you know we are in a time of miracles when Anheuser-Busch isn’t producing beer. But that’s the sort of generosity of spirits.

“One of the state officials who was helping lead the disaster relief called Academy. They had a warehouse in just west of Houston out in Katy. He said, ‘How many boats do you have in the warehouse?’ Fella from Academy told him, and he said ‘Fine we want them. We want them all.’ He said, ‘Great. Come take them. They’re yours.’ DPS sent trucks. They loaded up the boats and sent the boats out to rescue people. J.J Watt, a great Texan football player who I hope a year from now is wearing a Super Bowl ring, launched a charity effort raising over $10 million on Twitter just saying, ‘Let’s help people who are hurting.’

“The shelters that were stood up, the George R. Brown Center, the N.R.G. Center both of which I’ve spent significant time at in the last two weeks. I remember one morning at the George R. Brown I was helping serve breakfast. We were serving oatmeal. A fellow standing to my right, I turned to him and said, ‘Thank you for being here.’ Something I try to do a lot of is just thank people. I don’t think you can thank people enough in the midst of crisis for what they’re doing. ‘Thank you for being here. Thank you for helping other folks.’ And he just began laughing. He said, ‘Well you know, I got to be here. My house is under water.’ He said, ‘I’m staying here. This is the only place I have to sleep.’ And yet he was up at the food line helping serve others.

“Two gentlemen I met at that same shelter, I asked them as I tried to ask everyone, ‘How are you doing? How is your home doing?’ Two different gentlemen told me, ‘Well, I don’t have a home. I’m homeless.’ One said, ‘I sleep under the bridge.’ Both of them were volunteering. Both of them were sweeping the floor. So they weren’t just taking shelter but even in the midst of distress, they were helping out, keep the facility clean and care for the needs of others.

“Earlier this week I was at Port Arthur. Port Arthur is relatively low income community in Texas. Heavily minority. Was hit very, very badly by the storm. Devastating floods in Port Arthur. I was at an African American church helping give out food and supplies to people who’d lost everything and visiting just a line of cars as people were driving up. And you’d say to each person, ‘What do you need? And they’d need some water. They’d need some food, some diapers, maybe some dog food or cat food.’ Several things were amazing. One, almost to a person I’ve heard at least a hundred times in the last two weeks, when you talk to someone who’s lost their car or lost their house and you’d say, ‘I’m so sorry. We’re praying for you. We’re with you.’ Over and over again I heard people say, ‘You know what? There are people a lot worse off than me. I may have lost my home but at least I’ve got my life. At least I’ve got my kids.’ It’s powerful to hear over and over again when you try to comfort someone and they say, ‘Look at everyone else who needs it more than I do.’ But at the same time when you would hand, someone would come in, a young mom would come in that would need diapers, you would hand her two packages of diapers and she would say, ‘No, no, I’ll just take one. Somebody else needs that other one. Give that to someone else who needs that.’ I heard that at relief centers in Port Arthur, in Beaumont, in Victoria, in Rockport, in Houston, that same message over and over again. ‘There’s someone else who need it.’

“At that church in Port Arthur, there was a couple there both of whom who had lost their home, had lost everything, and they had been from dawn to dusk at the church volunteering and helping others. They said, ‘Actually helping others is how we’re getting through this.’

“There are also some moments of joys. I visited with two little boys who were in their home and the water rose to waist level. They had to be rescued, I think it was by boat. And I asked them, I think they were about 8 and 10 years old. I asked the boys, I said ‘Boys, was that scary?’ They laughed and said ‘Are you kidding? We got to swim in our living room.’ Those moments of laughter and joy I think are important, even in the face of fear and death and destruction. The unity we’re seeing has been remarkable.

“And then the third and final phase will be rebuilding. And rebuilding is going to be a project that’s going to take days. And then it’s going to take weeks. And then it’s going to take months and it will ultimately take years. The scope of this devastation is massive. There are multiple estimates that this may prove the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. And having seen firsthand the scope of the disaster, the thousands of homes and businesses destroyed, I can readily believe it.

“And I’m here to say Texas is coming back. We’re going to rebuild. In East Texas, I visited with the mayor of a small town whose entire town was destroyed. Every home, every building was under water. Her home was under water. And I’ll tell you, the mayor just in tears. The whole town was gone. And she said, ‘If we rebuild.’ And I was there with several firefighters and police officers, the county judge. We all hugged her. We said, ‘There’s no if. We will rebuild. We will come together. We will stand as one. And we will rebuild.’

“We are seeing incredible generosity from Texans. And we are seeing leadership. I want to commend leadership at every level of government. I want to commend the president, President Trump, for his leadership during this crisis. I have spoken to the president multiple times throughout the course of this storm from the very first call, right when the storm was about to make landfall. His message was consistent. He said, ‘Ted, whatever Texas needs it’s got. The answer is yes.’ When the governor asked for a declaration, disaster declaration, the president signed it while the governor was still on the phone. The president convened a week ago a cabinet meeting via teleconference and instructed every cabinet member, ‘Lean in. Whatever the state needs, give it to them. Give it to them fast. Be there. Every resource we have, make it available.’

“I began to see cabinet member after cabinet member picking up the phone and calling, whether the Secretary of Health and Human Services saying, ‘All right, on the health side, what more can we be doing? How could we be helping the people in hospitals that are being evacuated?’ On the education side, the Secretary of Education, ‘How can we help the kids whose schools have been flooded?’ Secretary of Energy, former governor of Texas, Rick Perry. Secretary of H.U.D. focused on the massive housing challenges and of course the director of FEMA who’s been down in Texas repeatedly. The federal government leaned in with all the resources with a swiftness that I’ve never seen.

“At the state level let me say Governor Greg Abbott has done an extraordinary job. He is a close friend and mentor, but he has led the state. When we had crises playing out, when the city and county officials in Houston told me they didn’t have enough emergency response vehicles, enough choppers, enough boats, enough high-water trucks, within hours the governor and the federal government were able to flood the region with assets, with manpower, with National Guard, with D.P.S. Troopers, with Coast Guardsmen so that those thousands and thousands of rescues could happen.

“At the local level, all across Texas, county judges. One county judge in East Texas when I visited with a few days ago, he just buried his mother. His mother had died right before the storm. And the storm was such that she couldn’t be buried in the midst of the storm and so was in the funeral home until just a couple of days ago he was able to put her to rest. And yet he was out there leading the effort. Mayors, county judges in Houston, Mayor Sylvester Turner, Harris County Judge Ed Emmitt, one a Democrat, one a Republican and yet working seamlessly as one. That unity has been powerful. And in the next stage of rebuilding we will have resources available. They’re going to be very, very significant state resources. My office is working very closely with Governor Greg Abbott to mobilize the state resources and make them available.

“And then at the federal level. I commend the leadership in Congress and the Administration for responding swiftly with the relief mandated under statute. The relief efforts are being led by the Texas delegation in the House and by Senator Cornyn and myself here in the Senate, and we will see, I believe, strong bipartisan support for the federal relief needed to help people come out of this. But Texas will rebuild. We will come out stronger, and it will be through that same spirit, that same fearlessness, that same compassion and love and unity that brought us through the crisis, that saved thousands of lives. That same spirit will help us rebuild even stronger. Let me finally say to all the men and women across the state of Texas and across the United States and across the world who have been lifting us up in prayer, thank you. Thank you for your prayers.

“I was at the church in Port Arthur visiting with family after family hugging women and men and children who had lost everything. The message of comfort I tried to give each and every one of them was, ‘When you go to bed tonight, you are not alone. You are being lifted up in prayer by millions of people across Texas, across the country, and across the world. You are going through this journey surrounded by prayer warriors.’

“The day before yesterday, my family and I, we went to a home in Missouri City, a woman who in the flooding had lost everything. And we joined a church group in helping her clean out her house, helping tear down the sheetrock that the flooding water had destroyed. My two girls, Caroline and Catherine took part in it. I will say Caroline, the nine year old, we discovered can wield a mean hammer when it comes to taking out sheetrock. But the experience for my girls, my family, and that group of just neighbor helping neighbor as this woman grieved the loss of priceless memories. She also held on to special and wonderful memories. One thing we found was a note she had written to Santa Claus as a 9-year-old. That was saved. Another was a lock of hair from when she was three years old that was in an envelope that had been carefully preserved. That was saved. And what I shared with her was the same thing I shared with Texans suffering across the state, ‘You are not alone. America stands as one.’

“Today, there are no Democrats, there are no Republicans. On other days there may be issues that divide us. We’ll continue to debate tax policy and everything else. But today we are all Americans, we are all Texans. We are standing as one. That is the spirit that built our nation, and it is the spirit that will rebuild Texas and Louisiana after this disaster.

“And let me note, it is also the spirit that has us standing in unity with the people of Puerto Rico, the people of the Caribbean and the people of Florida who are in harm’s way as Irma bears down upon them. Our prayers are that that storm will dissipate and turn away from people, but whatever happens, if there is to be yet another major storm hitting America, know that we will stand united with those in harm’s way. We will stand as one and united we can overcome everything.”