Texomans Donate Time, Money

9-8-05 - Hundreds of Hurricane victims rescued from the floodwaters have some Texomans to thank. Three local men left last Friday night and began pulling people out as soon as they arrived.

David Beeson made a living on the waters of the Red River with fishing lines, but this week, he's given life-lines to hundreds of victims.

"I felt like I was needed," Denison fishing guide David Beeson said. "[It's] something I needed to do... never done anything like this before... you get something out of it, you can get one out that needs to go."

Beeson isn't alone as fellow airboat pilots Dan Arthur and Harold Speed from Bryan County went last Friday night as well. Driving straight through to the disaster area, they were pulling people off the water by Saturday.

"My partner was here," Speed said. "He'd come to my house when the hurricane hit. Then we heard how bad it was. The general called me and asked me to come down, so we put a team together and come down."

Speed builds boats for a living, and he knows firsthand the value of a bigger, stronger airboat.

"We can drive over the tops of cars," Speed said. "We don't have to worry about hitting anything."

And they can hold more people as well. 250 rode to safety on the boat within the first 24 hours of their arrival, and Beeson carried 400. Four days later, Beeson had lost count, only remembering the faces and images of death and destruction.

"You never see a face," Beeson said. "If it's face up, its covered and you can't tell what race, what color they are. It's not prejudice. The hurricane isn't prejudice, it killed them all."

While searching for victims to rescue, they wear bulletproof vests and have armed officers on board. This is a rescue mission, but after last week, no one is taking any chances.

This trip isn't cheap. The men brought their own gas and supplies, and there's no guarantee they'll get reimbursed by FEMA. Despite long hours and lots of stress, they keep their sense of humor, knowing what they're doing is making a difference.