This week, over the course of about 26 hours, Speaker Ryan made three stops in two states to survey damage from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. But the most lasting impressions weren’t floods or downed wires. It was the spirit of the people and their total commitment to rebuild and recover. Here are some moments we shared with them.
1. The first thing we did in Jacksonville was receive a briefing from federal, state, and local officials. These discussions get pretty technical—which agency to work with on this, how the city will get reimbursed for that—but they're important. Coordination among the different agencies and levels of government is an essential part of the response and recovery process.
2. To maximize time on the ground, we did some briefings on the fly. On our flight to Miami, the Coast Guard's commander of the region gave us an overview of response efforts. By this point, at the top of our minds was Hurricane Maria, which was making landfall in Puerto Rico.
3. They put the ramp down on the C-130 to give us a closer look of devastation in the Keys, particularly on U.S. 1, the only road in or out. It is going to take some time for tourism and local industry to recover, but the people in the area are fully committed to rebuilding.
4. We also got a look from the plane's cockpit. Pictured in the foreground here is Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), who represents the Lower and Middle Keys, where they saw 130 mile per hour winds and a 10-foot storm surge.
5. This is Lt. Christopher Pappe, who happens to be from Kenosha, Wisconsin, in the Speaker's district. As you can see, the Speaker was very happy to run into a fellow Wisconsinite in Opa Locka, FL.
6. At every stop, we had a bipartisan delegation standing together united and fully committed to rebuilding and recovery.
7. We ended each stop by talking to local law enforcement, and thanking them for all they did during the storms to save lives.
8. We kicked off our morning in Houston at a county-wide shelter. When the storm hit, they got this facility up and running in a matter of about six hours. It was incredible to hear all the different places people had come from to lend a hand, and how they wanted to stay to help as long as they could. This is America at its best.
9. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) joined us for an aerial tour of the damage in the area, with a focus on Army Corps of Engineers projects that were affected by the storm. Harvey hit last month, and you could still see whole areas flooded.
10. Team Rubicon is an organization founded by military veterans that deploys for disaster relief missions. On this day, they were removing debris and drywall from storm-damaged homes in the Friendswood neighborhood of Houston.
Before taking off the hard hat and heading home, Speaker Ryan said this: "Know that you are in our hearts and our prayers, that aid is coming, that we will be doing more to make sure that we can respond to this disaster." Watch his message here.