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2006-03-30 -- Faith in numbers
Faith in numbers
By Carter Toole

Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.

-- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

For more than 20,000 victims of Hurricane Katrina, the first step towards the rest of their lives came in Houston.

More specifically, it came in the form of the Astrodome, where evacuees found much-needed food, shelter, clothing and companionship. But the next step? That's a little trickier. Truth be told, many don't exactly know what their next step is going to be. And that's a scary proposition. A proposition that, perhaps, can be tempered by faith -- and the kindness of strangers.

"The people in Houston have just been wonderful," Texans owner Bob McNair said Thursday. "I've always said this is the most generous city in the world."

McNair uttered those words on the Astrodome floor, where he and a handful of Texans players stopped by after practice. Former NFL coach Jimmy Johnson was there, too, with a FOX crew. The surface where Earl Campbell once rumbled and Nolan Ryan once toed the mound is now scattered with makeshift beds for residents of New Orleans.

Earlier in the week, the population of "Reliant City" was well over 20,000. Now, as some have found housing and relatives elsewhere, it has dwindled somewhat to around 8,000. But that's still a lot of people to help, and Houston is doing one heck of a job.

"People will just go overboard," McNair said. "The volunteers have been lined up with pickup trucks with food and clothing. They've volunteered to help and to help bring families back together."

And that makes for some of the more gut-wrenching images inside the Astrodome. At one end of the stadium lies a roped-off area for, as the sign says, "lost children." At the other end are dozens of different pieces of paper taped up to a wall, asking the whereabouts of family members. There are seemingly more children living there than adults. While some enjoyed autographs from the players, others looked into our video camera to tell their family members that they were in Houston and to come get them.

"We just need to be here to show them that we care. We want to give the kids a little hope that things are going to get better," wide receiver Andre Johnson said.

As the Texans exited the floor, walked up the ramp and headed outside, three young girls scurried behind them. They waved good-bye before one of them yelled "Bring back some more rock stars tomorrow!"

Actually, the real rock stars were back inside. They were handing out supplies, taking down personal information, making phone calls, dispensing medicine and basically doing whatever was required at any given moment. The Astrodome is currently showcasing Space City at its absolute finest. The Texans feel fortunate just to be able to see it up close.
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