Monday, September 11, 2006

Disaster relief

It didn't take long for Houston to help its neighbor.

Remember when that happened? Just days earlier, a hurricane decimated a major American city on the Gulf Coast. Many were killed or left homeless.

In response, Houstonians organized relief agencies, rounded up supplies and collected donations.
You remember that, right?

Probably not.

It was 1900. On Sept. 10, local residents gathered at City Council chambers for a meeting to coordinate supplies for Galveston. The meeting, led by Judge Norman Kittrell, resulted in the formation of a citizens' committee to take charge in organizing the relief effort. Benjamin Riesner, a blacksmith, was named chairman of the committee. Mayor Samuel Brashear was also named to the committee.

During the meeting, Texas Gov. Joseph Sayers sent Brashear a telegram saying that he had "taken the liberty of directing that all supplies for food and clothing for Galveston be shipped to you."

Three messages were also read:

  • On Sept. 9, G.N. McElroy, an Arcola station agent for the International and Great Northern Railway, sent word to Brashear seeking assistance. "There are 25 or more people here who are in urgent need of relief, quite a number of whom are sick ladies and children. One lady died before being rescued and a little girl is dying from injuries. The sick and homeless people need to be carried to a place of shelter."
  • Houstonian Rosine Ryan offered to volunteer her time to help with the relief effort.
  • Finally, William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal might have been looking for a scoop. "Can you give the Journal an idea of the extent of the calamity as to loss of life and property, what relief measures in your opinion should be inaugurated?"

President McKinley sent a note to Gov. Sayers inquiring about the number of rations and tents Galveston would need.

In the end, Katrina wasn't the first time Houston mobilized to help a storm-ravaged town.

(The above proclamation was published in the Sept. 10, 1900, edition of the Houston Daily Post.)

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