I know how a city smells after being underwater.

Hurricane Katrina hit my home when I was seven years old. We weren’t expecting Katrina to turn into a category five storm, but it did. My family and I left New Orleans with one weekend’s worth of clothes just two days before Katrina made landfall. We were gone for four months.

As far as natural calamities go, Katrina and Hurricane Harvey are similar. They both came right at the end of hurricane season; both were large storms that left chaos in their wakes. I don’t have to reach too far to imagine what the people of Houston are feeling. I lived through the repercussions of Katrina.

Texas, and Houston especially, were instrumental in our survival. Almost everyone I knew evacuated to Houston. The rest of the country, especially Texans, took us into their schools and city. They gave us a home when we didn’t have one.  

Everywhere we turned strangers did everything they could to help us and the thousands of other New Orleanians in Texas. A parent at my evacuation school surprised us by signing me up for the soccer team and Girl Scouts. There was a basket of stuffed animals delivered to our apartment because everybody knew I didn’t have toys.

In the aftermath of Harvey, Emory —  a Southern institution — should do everything it can to help.  

Our university has the means to help and should have the motivation to help. After Katrina, Emory University doctors stepped in and provided care to evacuees who fled to Atlanta. Our school let the University of New Orleans swim team practice and compete in Emory’s facilities. Now, in the midst of Harvey, it is Emory’s turn to step up again.

Right now, Texas residents are searching the flooded streets for their pets while others are sitting on top of their roofs, waiting for rescue crews. While they search for food and shelter, we need to help them solve problems they haven’t had time to worry about. Donate to the cause, go to Houston for the cleanup, offer your support in any way you can. Even the smallest gesture can make a difference in someone’s life.  

I’m sure that there is a little girl who needs the help of strangers and friends, just as I did. These people need help not only now, but also after the floodwaters recede. Twelve years later, New Orleans has yet to fully recover, but thanks to the help of strangers, we have made more progress than we ever could have alone. In order to survive these natural disasters, Americans need to band together and help one another. Be the stranger who helps rebuild a home — who helps rebuild a life. Emory calls itself a moral leader. Now is the time to prove it.

Annie Cohen is a College sophomore from New Orleans, LA.