Two Auburn students guided their boat into the front door of a flooded house and let off a wife and husband. The husband looked down into what used to be his living room and spotted a Roomba vacuum — submerged under water.
"Well, I guess it's not doing its job," the husband said and laughed as he stood four-feet deep in waters left after Tropical Storm Harvey dumped millions of gallons of water on Southeast Texas.
Jack Hooper and Connor Andrew, seniors in building science, were amazed at the positivity the couple had after having their lives "flipped upside down."
Hooper and Andrew, both brothers of Kappa Alpha Order, took to the road with a pickup truck and a boat on Wednesday, Aug. 30, looking to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas, leaving behind their classes and obligations to go help in whatever way they could.
Hooper is originally from Nashville, Tennessee, another city that suffered from severe flooding in 2010. Although he was not directly affected, he said he remembered the help his city received and wanted to return the kindness.
Hooper said he was watching the news on Wednesday before classes when he got the urge to do something about the devastation he was seeing on flashing across the screen.
"I feel like every time I look at the news or see some event going on like that you feel detached from it, but this time something clicked," Hooper said. "I thought to myself, 'We can do something about this.'"
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Andrew was a good partner to have, Hooper said. Although the two KA brothers usually spent their time in Auburn fishing on Hooper's boat, they knew handing out waters, checking houses for survivors and handing out snacks to children would be more rewarding.
The two left Auburn at 1 p.m. and drove until 9 p.m. when they stopped to rest their eyes for a few hours. As they got closer to Texas, they began to run into others who were looking to lend a helping hand. The line of boats from as far as South Carolina caravanned together using a push-to-talk app called Zello.
Those helping with rescue efforts began to rely on the app heavily, Andrew said.
After a quick snooze at a truck stop in Louisiana, Andrew and Hooper pushed forward to Orange, Texas. Hooper said they wanted to focus on a smaller town like Orange for their own safety and the lack of attention smaller communities were being given.
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The only way into Orange was driving through three miles of water.
"The fields looked like oceans and the interstate looked like a river," Hooper said. "The only way I knew which way I was going was by following the line of traffic."
Despite the "follow-the-leader" system, Hooper said he drove off the pavement once, saw the hood of the car dip under the water for a second and then regained his control of the truck. It was then the two students felt the most afraid.
Andrew said there were loads of people around to help, specifically law enforcement and public safety officials from many of the surrounding states.
Having trained professionals present was reassuring as Hooper and Andrew floated into a submerged city, passing cars filled to their hoods with rain water and street signs peeking out of the murky water.
"Have you ever seen 'The Walking Dead?' ... It's like that with water," Hooper said.
They left Texas with a huge scratch across the bottom of their boat from floating over a sign. Andrew said it was practically impossible to see what you were about to hit in most areas and Hooper described the track marks on top of vehicles from people floating across the abandoned vehicles.
They spent the majority of their time handing out waters to those waiting out the flood waters and found joy in handing out Oreos and snacks to children barely old enough to walk. One father smiled for what seemed like the first time in a week after his child was handed a sweet treat, Andrew said.
When they made it to the residential areas and began checking on families door by door, Hooper said he realized some families just wanted to chat. After four days of no energy, a new face was exactly what they wanted he said.
The same husband that looked at his drowning Roomba looked at his prized possession, the flooded Zebra-striped Expedition that took him years to find, and "his smile never left his face."
Hooper and Andrew want you to help Hurricane Harvey victims. They ask that students and faculty ban with them and donate to the Red Cross by texting HARVEY to 90999 to donate $10.
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