Austin, TX

Good Samaritans Keep a Community Functioning in Freezing Temperatures in Apartments With No Heat/Water in Texas

Carol Lennox

When the infrastructure fails, who do you turn to?

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Photo by author of hero Nabil Yazdani after the freeze lifted.

Here in Austin, Texas, people in communities pulled together to survive five days of below freezing weather in homes with no heat or water.

Nabil Yazdani is a hero. He didn't wear a cape, just a mask, a big coat, and shoes that weren't snow proof, as he knocked on my door on Monday, February 15, 2021 to make sure I was okay, and to ask if I wanted to join a phone tree he was starting to connect neighbors during the unprecedented power outage Texas was having.

I answered in the two layers of fleece-lined tights, two pair of socks, and the two sweatshirts I had worn to bed the night before when the power went out. At first I was nervous a strange man knocked on my door. I'm older, a single woman, and live alone. Howver, I was feeling more frightened of being all alone in below freezing temperatures with no heat than I was of a stranger. I opened the door.

Nabil took my name and number and asked if there was anything I needed. We still had water then, so I said no. When I closed the door, I felt relieved. I was no longer completely alone.

In the following five days of no electricity or heat, and the going on six days now of no water, Nabil has accomplished what the state, the city, and Northland Corporation, who owns our apartments didn't do. He brought whole buildings of us togehter to make sure everyone survived and was fed.

Prior to water being shut off the day after the electricity went out, Nabil set up a station in his garage where he had a camping stove to heat water for anyone who needed it. With no electricity, we had nohting but cold food, so people donated ramen noodles and other foods that could be combined with hot water to make a hot meat.

Neighbors Dan and Gayle who live below me used their outdoor grill to heat water for me for coffee, and food I brought down for them to heat, as well as their own food they cooked on it and shared with me. I shared everything they cooked with my neighbor Sarah, whom I'd lived next to for two years but had only said "hello" to till now. She is also single, and had only cereal and boiled eggs, not having shopped before the storm.

The neighbors next to Sarah, Nate and Fran, have a fireplace and a small generator. They asked us to come over and stay by the fire with their dog while they scavenged for more firewood. We were able to charge our phones using the generator. It's the first time I've ever been inside their home.

During the coldesrt time of the storm, Dan and Gayle finally went to stay with their daughter. They left some propane in the grill, and let any of us who wanted come in and cook. Nabil took two boxes of hamburger patties donated by one of our neighbors, and grilled them for whoever wanted one on the night workers from the Pike Corporation came to try to get the electricity back on. Nabil took them burgers as well.

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Power repair truck. Photo by Nabil.

Nabli, Pablo, Daniel and Nate volunteered to keep our walkways clear of snow and ice. They also cleared the entrance to the complex, and one day dug the mail truck out when it became stuck. Michelle and Nabil cleared the ramp for a resident in a wheel chair. Pablo cut wood on the trail on the property to supply firewood to the one or two apartments in each unit with fireplaces.

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Michelle clearing walk for resident in wheelchair.

When the water to the complex was turned off, a bucket brigade was started to bring water from the swimming pool to use to flush toilets. People in homes closest to the pool delivered 5 gallon buckets of water to Nabil's garage for those of us on the other side of the complex. Some of us put out the largest containers we could find to gather the water from the melting snow. I'm still using that water from the rainspouts today, as we have no indication of when water will be back on.

My neighbor Pablo and I, and others, scavenged the city for drinkable water, and whenever we found some, bought as much as the stores allowed, usually limited amounts. Pablo and I drove to five stores and found no water, so we returned with canned teas, lemonade, ginger ale and juices, so people could at least stay hydrated. We put those, and some water others were able to find, in Nabil's garage, which he continues to keep open.

Neighbors in all 15 buildings in the complex eventually joined our phone tree, so we Nabil switched us to WhatsApp. Over 30 households are now involved, donating everything including paper plates, since we can't wash dishes, to LED lamps for those who were still without electricity until late last night. There's food, and bread, and buckets for water.

I no longer feel alone and scared in my apartment. In any future crisis, I know there are people here I can call on, and they will help without hesitation. I will do the same for them. That goodness has always been there, but it took the masked angel Nabil to bring it out in us and combine that sometimes hidden inner goodness for the good of all.

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My purpose is to inspire and inform. You can read more by me on Medium.com/@carollennox, and on the Good Men Project. I've had a lifetime of valuable experiences, and I want to share the lessons I've learned readily, or been forced to learn. I'm a psychotherapist, a hypnotherapist, a mother to my amazing son, Blake Scott, whom I write about often. I also write about race, equality, social justice, sex, government, and Mindfulness, not in that order.

Austin, TX
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