Beyond the Byline: Tunkhannock couple changes direction for Harvey help

By Bill O’Boyle - [email protected]
Bill O’Boyle -

WILKES-BARRE — On Monday, Jim and Kate Crowley answered questions from the media about their decision to drive south to help in the flood relief effort from Hurricane Harvey.

The Crowleys were polite, and you could tell they were sincere in what they were doing.

The Tunkhannock couple is skipping their planned monthlong vacation to Canada to volunteer in the disaster relief effort in Louisiana.

The Crowleys are retired and have been Red Cross-certified volunteers for years. They drove an official Red Cross Disaster Relief Truck to assist in the massive recovery from Hurricane Harvey. They are distributing food to flood victims and volunteers.

As they were placing their baggage into the truck on Monday, I asked why they decided to forgo their planned sightseeing trip to Nova Scotia and Quebec.

Kate’s response left me speechless.

“We were all set to leave for vacation to Canada tomorrow,” Kate said Monday. “But we’ve been watching the news and we decided we can’t go to Canada when all those people in Texas and Louisiana need help. We’ll still be together and we are taking a long trip.”

Jim’s response was even more sobering.

“It seemed more worthwhile for us to do this,” he said of the couple’s decision.

The Crowleys expect to be deployed for three weeks.

Kate, who said she was apprehensive of what she would see in Louisiana, then offered this:

“I feel that I’ve lived a very blessed life. It’s time to give back to others in need — people who are at their worst possible moment in life.”

So instead of sightseeing in Canada and enjoying the great outdoors, this retired couple will help bring some normalcy back to the lives of Harvey victims.

Now, a lot of us remember what it’s like to come face-to-face with the wrath of Mother Nature. Hurricane Agnes in 1972 destroyed much property and many dreams of the good people living in what has since been called Pennsylvania’s “flood plain.”

The old Susquehanna River swelled to an even greater width and depth in 2011, but the raised levees spared the greater Wyoming Valley, even though unprotected areas again were inundated with flood waters.

Each time a natural disaster has hit, the “Valley With A Heart” has responded.

Volunteers from unaffected areas in Luzerne County, along with countless others from across the country, have come to our area to help disaster victims recover from the devastation of past floods.

Just like what now is going on in Texas and Louisiana.

It’s this human spirit that we must celebrate and be thankful still exists in the hearts of so many Americans — like Jim and Kate Crowley of Tunkhannock.

Without this response of manpower and giving, such as food, clothing and money, especially, far too many broken lives never would be restored.

The victims of Hurricane Harvey will come back. They will clean out their homes, throwing away years of memories and sentimentality to get back to living life again. They will find a path to becoming whole again, and thanks to good-spirited people — again, like the Crowleys — their faith in humanity will be restored.

All one has to do to get a sense of what is going on down south is to watch the nightly news. Look at the pictures of high waters, frightened people, damaged or destroyed homes and property, exhausted volunteers, abandoned pets and worried children. Then you will know the extent of this storm’s destruction.

And know that through it all, just like the good people of the Wyoming Valley did in 1972 and 2011, they will survive.

There are a lot of people, like Jim and Kate Crowley, who have responded to help.

I say thank you to all of them, and I hope all of these good Samaritans find satisfaction in what they’re doing and happiness in their lives.

And I hope the Crowleys get to take that trip to Canada.

Bill O’Boyle O’Boyle

By Bill O’Boyle

[email protected]

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle, or email at [email protected]

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle, or email at [email protected]