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In Rockport, Hurricane Harvey survivors have the T-shirts to prove it

Kristin Finan
kfinan@statesman.com

Been there. Done that. Got the T-shirt.

It’s been a little over a week since Hurricane Harvey devastated the small coastal town of Rockport, but over Labor Day weekend, signs of life, and consumerism, were starting to return.

Along Highway 35 North on Sunday, volunteer groups waved signs touting free supplies, Whataburger distributed free burgers and fries and Tino Ferreira worked the line of people under his canopy eager to purchase $15 Hurricane Harvey souvenir T-shirts.

“Everybody has been shaking my hand, telling me thank you for being here,” said Ferreira, who lives in Las Vegas and is employed by a Florida-based company called ShowMakers. “It’s been wonderful. FEMA was here buying stuff from me, everybody is coming to get a shirt. These are souvenirs.”

The T-shirts, offered in a variety of colors including burnt orange, featured phrases such as “I survived Hurricane Harvey,” “Texas Strong, come hell or high water” and “Hurricane Harvey survival team.”

While waiting in line, some residents discussed their new normal. One said she was in especially high spirits because she had finally taken a shower, her first since the hurricane hit.

“There was a lady here yesterday, she was on the phone talking to her dad and she was in tears,” Ferreira said. “She was paying for two shirts, she goes, ‘I’m sorry I’m crying, I just found out about my dad’s house, it was devastated.’ But she was here buying the shirts. She thanked me as she left.”

Ferreira said everyone who has visited has been welcoming and that he hasn’t received any complaints that he’s profiting from the disaster. He added that his company does donate some of the proceeds toward relief efforts, although he didn’t have specifics.

“Everybody is in high spirits even though the devastation here is very sad,” he said. “Everyone is working, busy and very happy to have me here.”

Ferreira, who was wearing a T-shirt that said “Austin City Limits Rocks,” a gift from his girlfriend, said he hopes to have a chance to get to Austin soon, too.

“I haven’t been there in a long time. I’m going to have to take a ride over there,” he said. “We love our music. We love our rock ‘n’ roll.”