HOUSTON — A Beaumont man who helped rescue hundreds of people during Hurricane Harvey is coming back to those same neighborhoods for the storm’s one-year anniversary, hoping to reconnect with those he saved.
“It’s surreal to come back to this area,” said Kenny Vaughan, standing in a parking lot at Interstate 610 and Beechnut on Friday afternoon. “It’s the first time I’ve been back here.”
In that moment, memories flooded back of the flood Kenny Vaughan and his brother, Gabe, voluntarily rushed toward from Beaumont, towing the same once-totaled, now-repaired boat he stood inside on Friday.
“First guy we picked up was at the corner right there,” said Vaughan. “I’ll keep this boat forever.”
The brothers spent five days in the flood waters around Houston and Beaumont.
“We didn’t get tired,” recalls Vaughan. “We just wanted to keep going. When you come out, and there’s still people hollering to come back, you’re going back.”
Vaughan says they rescued more than 400 people, a number he knows because he handed each person a dog tag etched with encouraging scripture from his company, Shields of Strength.
“I just want to come back and meet those people under different (circumstances),” said Vaughan. “I don’t know if I’ll find any or not.”
However, on Saturday, he’ll try, cruising the streets he’s only navigated by boat. This time, he'll have his wife, his two teenage daughters, and ten-year-old son by his side.
“I remember some houses specifically,” he said. “Just encourage them, hug their neck, tell ‘em thank you.”
Thank you, Vaughan says, for the encouragement and selfless love from people of every background imaginable.
It’s a lesson from the storm he added into his new book, “The Right Fight: How to Live a Loving Life”, which he had been writing before Harvey.
It’s also a lesson he hopes to share with his family during the weekend, one that will endure far longer than Harvey’s destruction.
“I’ve always loved my country, but I didn’t really know ‘em,” recalls Vaughan. “We’re all in the same boat. Literally. Not just this boat. It was a powerful thing.”
On Saturday, Vaughan will tour hard-hit areas near South Post Oak, as well as Beltway 8 and Tidwell. He’ll continue on to Beaumont and the surrounding towns on Sunday.