Bethel’s response to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
By Mady Fortier
Paul Eddy, a biblical and theological studies professor at Bethel, loaded his family into their van and drove away from a boarded-up house, tied-down boat and sandbagged yard on Anna Maria Island. The house was directly in the path of Hurricane Irma, which had shifted course towards the Tampa Bay area of Florida. They headed towards the only available hotel room in Lincoln, Alabama.
The van had a full gas tank, unlike the woman at the gas station earlier that day who had spent six hours driving around in search for gas, to no avail. Eddy made the ten hour drive with his two sons, who wanted to see a hurricane for the first time.
Hurricane Irma came on the heels of Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm that devastated Houston, Texas. This natural disaster flooded the city, destroying homes and taking lives in its wake. The impact of Harvey and the following rain lasted from Aug. 25 to Sept. 3, and Irma hit Florida Sept. 10.
Student Life Vice President William Washington spoke to a group of Bethel Student Government leaders about Hopper Middle School, a school in Houston whose students and teachers lost everything to Hurricane Harvey. A month before school started, Hopper’s students were left with nothing. Their need for school supplies and financial support became an opportunity for the Bethel community to reach out and join together in Hope for Houston.
The home Eddy and his family were staying in over his sabbatical was owned by a friend who advised that they stay put in the house and wait out the storm. Eddy and his wife Kelly spent 48 hours deciding and watching weather updates, eventually coming to the decision to leave on a sunny, clear Thursday night.
The next day the city advised people to evacuate. Those who had gas in their cars left, only to end up gridlocked on the highway with a hurricane looming in the distance.
“Sad isn’t a strong enough word,” Eddy said.
Eddy and his family started their journey back to Anna Maria Island on Sept. 23 to finish out his sabbatical. Their island was left with minimal damage from the storm, but Eddy struggled as a theologian with the joy of being spared in light of those who were not so lucky. The Eddy family attends a church in Florida which they will be partnering with to help in the areas of need in their community.
Students gathered in the Underground on Sept. 20 to pack markers and notebooks that had been donated by students and faculty into bright red drawstring backpacks. The neon-colored paper on the tables was filled with encouraging words for the students and teachers at Hopper.
The money donated for the Hope for Houston project was used to purchase gift cards for the parents whose students attend Hopper. BSG financial officer Tyler Martens worked alongside faculty and his peers to “empower them to look beyond Bethel’s walls” and to the hurt that is happening in the world.
Paul Eddy drove to Bethel on Sept. 15 as National Public Radio reported about a woman and her children who had lost everything but their lives to Hurricane Irma. The devastation and guilt set in.
“I had the luxury of being able to get into a van and leave,” Eddy said.