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“On That Night”


Palestine Receives Commendations for Bravery, Heroism and Community Spirit
By Teresa Holloway
Messenger Reporter
PALESTINE – Lt. Gabriel Green held a small blue box under one arm as he addressed the Palestine City Council during the regular Oct. 24 meeting.
“On April 29 and 30, a singular event faced the city,” he began. “On April 29, it began as a regular day for most of us. We had a storm coming in, but it wasn’t the first storm we’d faced.
“But this storm changed the lives of many in this city and this community as a whole. We witnessed flood waters we’d never seen before sweep this city. It was like an army came through and caused tremendous damage, sweeping away everything before it.
“At first it was just things on the ground. Then as the waters rose, more and more loss occurred. Whole vehicles were swept away into holes and tunnels.
“People lost homes, property and dreams they’d built. Businesses gone, churches destroyed … numerous things lost but even more devastating it wasn’t just what life had built, it was what life had created that was lost that night as well.
“During the onslaught that faced the city, that devastated this city, we had heroes emerge in all shapes and sizes.
“On that night, we had people coming out and saving other citizens. On that night, first responders came out and faced the armies of waves that were cutting things away, sweeping everything away.
“We nearly lost first responders who were trying to pull people out of those vehicles, out of those houses. When you work in this line of work you take an oath to protect. Whether you are a firefighter or a police officer or a next door neighbor, yes, when you hear those cries from your neighbor you respond and sometimes you forget your own safety,” he continued.
“Equipment and lives were lost that night,” he said.
“We had amazing stories that emerged, heroism emerged. Tales of firefighters swimming on cooler lids to protect those and save those out there – finding whatever they could use to save those lives.
“Police officers, swimming into shoulder high or higher water weighted down with full gear trying to save those stranded in cars all around the city.
“The whole city was held under siege by this flood the entire night.
“A dispatcher who was called in had her car drowned out, she almost drowned herself. In spite of her own rescue, drenched, she walked several more blocks to get to the city and perform her duties,” he said.
“Because of those actions, because of what people saw and tales of heroism submitted to the East Texas Council of Governments, the city was recognized by that organization,” he said.
The lid came off the box Green held. He gingerly reached inside and lifted out a solid crystal carved eagle. The eagle was given to the city in recognition of the community bravery and heroism displayed during the April floods.
“We also have a signed letter from Senator John Cornyn, citing heroism and bravery.
“What we were left with was an aftermath of complete devastation and destruction. People’s lives changed forever, families were destroyed by what had occurred.
“What we saw instead of despair, instead of wallowing in the misery we watched an entire city rise and become one.
“Organizations coming together, churches coming together, people coming together as a unified whole, donating money, donating time. It did not matter what race you were, it did not matter how old or young you were or what your economic status was.
“People were giving everything they had. I watched children coming up and donate their lunch money for that day to the flood victims. I watched people who had nothing dividing what they had to give to others.
“The whole city came together as one,” Green said.
“You don’t hear me saying a single name, or a single organization … there were so many that came together, so many heroes.
“The Chamber of Commerce recognized the entire City of Palestine for the works that were done in the aftermath of this disaster.
“This is where the true beauty lies, in the ashes. The true beauty that lies in any destruction is when we as a people, as a unified whole, step forward and make a difference.
“It does not matter what your background is. The truth of the matter is you live here. We are the City of Palestine. We will strive, we will survive and we will always make this city better,” Green ended.
Thunderous applause and an extended standing ovation from the crowded city council auditorium gave proof to the Lieutenant’s words.