When an Arctic cold front swept across Texas, residents quickly learned they couldn’t count on their local grid or elected officials to keep them warm. But as temperatures dipped, another unexpected thing happened. Generous neighbors stepped up to provide food, water, and warm shelter to friends and strangers in need.
After a week without power and water at her house in College Station, Texas, Karen Rambo-Hernandez was pleasantly surprised when a new neighbor showed up bearing Girl Scout cookies and cocoa. As her kids devoured the snacks, the assistant professor described this generous act as “Texan hospitality at its best” on Twitter. “I’ve personally appreciated the feeling of knowing we aren’t alone,” Rambo-Hernandez told CNN. “I know I can count on these moms … and my new neighbors.”
More than 100 miles away in Austin, Adrian Escajeda and his wife Gina were also moved by how people shared what little they had to help those in need. After a week without heat or power, the couple was invited to stay with a friend when their house dipped below -6 degrees.
“It is so amazing to know that even in times of need — and knowing the grocery stores are closed — people would still open their homes and offer their food,” said Escajeda, whose friend’s neighbor also stopped by with warm chili to welcome the winter storm refugees. “It’s such a simple thing to make just a little more food to fill an empty stomach.”
Eric Siner Jr. and his family had a similar experience. After 2 days without any heat or power, a neighbor offered to hook the freezing family up to his generator, allowing the Siners to use their space heaters. “If not [for him], we would’ve froze!” said Siner, whose mother returned the favor by cooking that kind man a meal on their freshly-lit gas stove.
The power and lights are coming back on across Texas, but many residents are reflecting on how regular people stepped up to help when the government and industry failed.
“I’m just really proud of this community and the friends we’ve made here,” said Adrian Escajeda, whose co-workers also called daily to make sure he and his wife were getting by. Other people, including Karen Rambo-Hernandez, hope to maintain these new friendships even once the crisis passes.
We've been without power for a while. I sent a text to a neighbor to do a quick wellness check. She showed up at my door with girl scout cookies and a package of hot chocolate. Texan hospitality at its best!
— Karen Rambo-Hernandez, Ph.D (@krambohernandez) February 17, 2021
Other Texans, including Austin resident Alicia Barr — whose neighbor drove her 20 miles to her mother’s house upon noticing Barr’s car wouldn’t start, even though the women had never spoken before — was initially surprised by this generosity, then remembered kind folks always find ways to help in times of crisis.
“I was surprised, but I really shouldn’t have been,” Barr told CNN. “Always look for the helpers in tough times, and it will never fail that they’re there.”