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Houston’s ‘Dunkirk moment’ a reminder of what unites Americans

By in Press Enterprise on September 14, 2017

By Michael Smerconish

Dunkirk, as memorialized in arguably the best movie of the summer, foreshadowed the catastrophic events wrought by Hurricane Harvey in Texas. The Christopher Nolan masterpiece recounted the heroic events in May of 1940, when at the outset of World War II, the English citizenry rallied to the rescue of more than 330,000 British and French troops who were trapped on a beach in northern France. While some of those soldiers could almost see home across the English Channel, the shallow waters prevented their rescue by warships. Instead, it was a flotilla of nearly 700 civilian craft — the Little Ships of Dunkirk — that made their way from Ramsgate in England to assist with the rescue.

And so it was in Texas. In Houston, civilian volunteers created patchwork flotillas composed of dinghies, jet skis, rafts, and fishing boats in an effort to ferry hundreds of residents to safety. A health-care worker named Jeremy Sparkman told Reuters: “I usually just use this boat for drinking beer, but we come together when we need to — that’s what Texans do.” Indeed. And when the Harris County Department of Homeland Security asked for volunteers one day after the storm’s landing, hundreds of boat owners responded to the call, and supply soon exceeded demand.

The Texas flotilla was an American Dunkirk, minus the aerial bombardment. So just for a moment, can we celebrate the human spirit that we all watched play out in the Lone Star State?

Those like Adam Brackman. The 41-year-old bar owner in Houston commandeered a civilian boat — a 16-foot flat-bottom fishing boat — and set about rescuing neighbors.

“I made a post on Facebook and next thing I know I’m getting 100 texts an hour,” he told me. “When my boat captain wanted to call it quits at the end of the day […]    

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