Wading in waist-deep water, junior sociology major Megan Lowry yells, “Search and rescue, call if you need help.” Lowry was part of a Hurricane Harvey rescue team from Tulsa’s Wounded Veterans of Oklahoma (WVO).
Lowry is not the typical student. She served as a U.S. Marine and on the security team for President George W. Bush. Well-versed in disaster relief, Lowry assisted after Hurricane Katrina. “After the Hurricane Harvey, a couple of us just felt strongly that we needed to go down there and help people,” Lowry said.
Within two days, they set up donation centers, assembled two boats and six people for the team. For the next three days and two nights, Lowry and her team ignored their sleep deprivation and focused only on saving people.
In Orange, Texas, the levees were about to break. “The water rose eight inches in an hour and a half, and they were saying it was going to raise eight to ten feet by that evening,” she said.
Although their team brought people to safety, there were a few who did not heed the warnings. With looters breaking into homes, they were afraid to lose their belongings, but at a certain point, the National Guard will not go back. “The day after we left Orange, we saw in the news that the whole neighborhood was completely underwater,” she said. “I don’t know what happened to those people; It’s heartbreaking and so frustrating.”
At their first stop in Beaumont, they teamed up with the National Guard to knock on doors and deliver food and water, but they were met with hostility. “They were actually shooting at search and rescue people,” she said.
The resistance was eye-opening for Lowry but not surprising. As a sociology major, Lowry took the class “Poverty in America,” where she learned that self-sustaining communities are wary of outsiders; but in another area, they were able to help a local pastor, which led to more phone calls for aid. “We helped one person, and he spread the word in his little community,” she explained.
Lowry searched for white sheets hanging from doors, which signaled the need for rescue. “Once we got the people out who wanted to get out, then we went back through and started getting out all the animals,” she said. From dogs to horses, Lowry was not leaving an animal behind. At the WVO, she trains shelter dogs to be service dogs.
Lowry’s compassion extends to animals, veterans, disaster victims and anyone in need. “Even if I don’t wear my uniform anymore, my service is never going to be over,” she said. “Just knowing that something happens whether it’s on American soil or world-wide, I have the heart to be there and help out.”