DALLAS -- News reports showing the devastation wrought by Hurricane Harvey will be difficult or stirring for most anyone watching. But for Keith Rhodes, seeing the images of flooded out streets and homes triggers the physical reactions one might experience during a horror movie.
“I start sweating. My heart starts racing," he says.
The reaction is rooted in history. Twelve years earlier, he was working in the New Orleans-area at a child foster care home. He heard the reports about a storm brewing in the Gulf and stayed.
He knew it was coming. He didn't know it would never truly leave.
“I dragged around too long,” he said about his decision to stay in the city. “The remnants of that will stay with me the rest of my life.”
Hurricane Katrina turned out to be a catastrophic natural disaster and forced families away from their homes. Hundreds of thousands re-settled in Texas and, more specifically, the Houston area.
Ironically, now Rhodes is the CEO for the North Texas Region of the American Red Cross. The past week has been a bad case of Déjà vu for people like himself who survived one catastrophe and are now watching another with Hurricane Harvey.
“It evokes a lot of emotion. It is painful to recognize the emotions I suppressed over the years," he says.
The primary emotion? Fear.
Rhodes said the images from Houston fill him with the fear of the unknown, the uncertainty, he felt in New Orleans and that thousands are feeling now.
But he finds himself in a position where his fear is also his fuel. The American Red Cross was one of the organizations he credits with helping him and his family get back on their feet after Katrina. Now as a member of that very organization, he understands the importance of the job ahead of him.
“I have been running on adrenaline even prior to the storm,” he said. “I am moving a thousand miles per hour because I recognize there is a significant need here and I can rest later.”
Just as Katrina forever left a mark on him, Rhodes wants to help others with the trauma that might never completely subside.
But he wants to tell them the sun will shine again.
“I want to help individuals get through this," he says. "This will get better."
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