Gaelon Phillips, an artist and music producer from Port Arthur, waited for hours for his family to be rescued after flooding from Hurricane Harvey. Unfortunately, officials were overwhelmed rescuing other people, so Phillips, along with his uncle and friend, ended up going out on a boat and rescuing at least 50 people themselves.
“Gaelon’s uncle and a friend came round with a boat and together they worked tirelessly all Wednesday to rescue 50 stricken people – including newborn babies, elderly people and the sick – and get them to dry land,” The Sun reported.
Gaelon’s home started to flood Tuesday evening. He tried calling emergency numbers but got no response, so climbed on top of his roof to flag a helicopter down Wednesday morning.
“I had got my mom out on the roof from the attic because I was going to tell her to go with them first,” Phillips said. “But the coastguard notified us that he was actually looking for one of our neighbours who had a brain aneurysm, so they were obviously the priority but he said he would come back.”
Phillips stayed on the roof until his uncle arrived with a boat, and left his parents behind thinking the helicopter would come back to rescue them. When it didn’t, Phillips went back a few hours later to get his parents.
Phillips said most people are safe in Port Arthur, but that he felt the people of the town were forgotten compared to Houston.
“I didn’t want to say that at first because it just happened so I wanted to give people time enough to react, but eventually I saw that nothing was happening so I took to social media to say my piece. Lots of people around here feel like no one cares about them,” Phillips said. “We need help right now if anyone can afford to help – come down and assess the houses or do whatever they can do to help – we need them.”
After seeing Phillips’s remarks about being forgotten, one poster named JP responded to The Sun’s article to say that Beaumont and Port Arthur were far from forgotten, and that thousands tried for hours to get into the city but it was impassable in normal trucks.
“Every route into the city was blocked with high water…. EVERY ROUTE…. WE TRIED FOR HOURS AND HOURS,” JP said. “Not to mention THOUSANDS of military, Texas guard, coast guard, border patrol, and numbers police units from across the region did go in with vehicles capable of passing the high water.”
Another commenter, Patricia Tierney, said she found The Sun’s article about Gaelon Phillips “offensive.”
“If Gaelon had been paying attention to the news, he would have known search and rescue operations had to be suspended because no one could safely maneuver through those waters in the dark and the rain. He’s no hero. He just wants the publicity,” Tierney said. “The real heroes are the private citizens who pitched in any way they could to get the job done and kept their mouths shut. His uncle is the hero. He got his boat and went about the business of rescuing people. Gaelon is a self-serving whining jerk.”
Others, however, had praise for Phillips. “You, young man have made my day,” Alan Tweedy said. “If you were closer I would be buying the beer. Well done.”