September 13, 2005
Rick Noriega: Man on a mission

Rick Noriega. The man is amazing.

Noriega, who returned to Texas from Afghanistan Aug. 2, had been trying to make dinner plans with Mayor Bill White when he got a call from the mayor's office on Aug. 31.

"I'm thinking we're going to decide if it's going to be Italian food or Mexican food," Noriega said.

Instead, the mayor asked Noriega to join in on an 8 a.m. logistics meeting the next day, saying he wanted to tap into the lieutenant colonel's military experience in preparing to house evacuees.

Noriega told White he'd do whatever was needed, although he didn't realize at the time the magnitude of the effort White wanted to put together.

Noriega arrived at the convention center at 11 a.m. on Sept. 2. By 6 p.m., the George R. Brown was operational, with nearly 1,000 beds set up and a team of plumbers working to install 80 showers.

The next morning, the shelter was up and running.

"There's a lot of anxiety when you see buses roll up and no one knows what to expect," Noriega said. "This is a four-star shelter. It's been quite remarkable."


Manning the shelter is a round-the-clock duty. Noriega has only been home once in the past 12 days.

And as soon as he and his wife, Melissa, put their son to bed and were enjoying some quiet time, the phone rang. It was a conference call with the Red Cross, which lasted until after 1 a.m.


White tapped Noriega to run the facility just as he was about to return to his job at CenterPoint Energy.

The mayor asked CenterPoint's CEO if Noriega could be assigned to the evacuee effort at the convention center for 30 days.

"I still have a mission to serve," Noriega said.

Noriega breaks the mission into phases: The first was taking care of evacuees' immediate needs. Last week was focused on social services. This week he is in "demobilization," preparing to close the shelter as guests that's what they call evacuees at the convention center return to their homes or become Houstonians.

At the risk of gushing, Rick Noriega is a hero. Whenever he decides to run for higher office (after a long rest and an even longer vacation, I hope), I'll be proud to support him.

As a reminder, you can read Melissa Noriega's reports from the GRB here and here.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 13, 2005 to Hurricane Katrina | TrackBack

The best thing to come out of the Legislature this year: Rick Noriega. I just wonder how our way far right friends would spin his service: He both "offers therapy" in response to 9/11 and "fails" as a state response to Katrina. If this is how Republicans see the world, don't pass me what they are smoking, it's lible to do permanent brain damage. Rick for Mayor in 09!

Posted by: Red Dog on September 13, 2005 11:29 AM


You're gushing!

But at least it's with good reason.


Posted by: Stace Medellin on September 13, 2005 1:48 PM

I am a republican. I have been volunteering at the George R Brown. Lt. Col. Noriega is AWESOME. What a genuinely nice man. Not everything is political. Left spins the Right's stories, and Right spins the Left's. Just like the Red Dog post. Stop bringing in political prop. and start volunteering, and loving. Stop the constant rep vs dem and be a people. If you would have been at the GRB that is what you would have seen. People just loving people. I NEVER add to these things, but just felt like I had to say something, for whatever it is worth.

Posted by: t wel on September 20, 2005 5:24 PM

As of today the GRB will be saying goodbye and good luck the last of the N.O. evacuees..."guests" and now neighbors.

When water particles form together high in atmosphere they create a water droplet that races on a mission to earth. The shape of the droplet is considered to be nature's perfect aerodynamic shape to achieve minimum drag and thus maximum velocity.

From 9/2 through 9/20 a group of Houstonians from all over formed together to open up and run the GRB and care for the evacuees...beginning to end. In that moment we were like the droplet...we were perfect..operating under Rep. Rick Noriega..working together..on a mission that was crystalized in all of our minds.

It was as if on that day we all said with one voice " I AM my brother's keeper!"

The difference between water particles coming together and us is that we take action based on our choice...not physics or nature. I pray that as a nation we will one day be able to make that same choice every morning and we will hear a quiet voice deep in our souls that whispers "Today I will be my brother's keeper"

Thank you Rick and the rest of the GRP Team!!

Posted by: Jerry W on September 20, 2005 8:15 PM