When Glendale police officers Steve Koszis and James Colvin saw the call to help first responders affected by Hurricane Harvey, they didn’t hesitate to jump on a flight to Texas.
The destructive storm displaced thousands and killed at least 70 people, all the while many of the city’s first responders remained on duty to aid in rescue and recovering efforts while their own homes were battered by the hurricane.
“All these police officers here in the area are all on duty seven days a week, 12 hours a day,” Koszis said. “Who gets to help them clean up their homes? There’s no one there for them.”
Koszis said he became aware of efforts to help first responders through a video posted by Aaron Slater, a former Houston-area police officer. In the video, Slater called for volunteers to come together and help clear out the water-damaged homes of Houston’s firefighters, police officers and paramedics.
“We’re going to try to take a lot of that burden away from them,” he said.
Koszis asked Colvin if he wanted to help, too, and the pair soon found themselves flying to Texas with their work gear in tow. Helping fellow officers was the right thing to do, Koszis said.
When they arrived in Texas on Sept. 1, they joined dozens of other officers from throughout the United States who responded to Slater’s call.
“It was amazing to see everyone from across the country come together and work as one,” Colvin said. "Without really knowing each other, I feel like I’ve gained a new family.”
The two men spent a week ripping out damaged carpet from homes, carrying away waterlogged furniture and tearing down moldy drywall.
“We’ve never been through anything like this ourselves. We just knew we were going to do a lot of hard work,” Koszis said. “They told us everything’s going to be wet and nasty and really heavy — it’s not a Texas vacation.”
He said the intensity of the work varied as some homes received only a few inches of flooding while others saw up to 8 feet.
However, Koszis said the hard work was worthwhile because, if the roles were reversed and something happened in California, officers from across the country would come out and do the same thing here.
However, he said there’s still a long road to recovery for Houston.
“The families that are here don’t just need a couple of weeks of help. It’s going to be a couple of months of help,” he said. “People here are thinking about how to support these families during the holidays and gathering school supplies, school uniforms throughout the year as they rebuild their lives.”