‘I wanted her to not feel alone’

Mom calls wrong Beau­mont for as­sis­tance but gets help any­way

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A case of iden­ti­cal town names and sim­i­lar Face­book pages con­nected two strangers from op­po­site sides of the bor­der dur­ing a ter­ri­fy­ing time.

A woman from Ar­ling­ton, Texas mis­took the Face­book page for Al­berta’s Beau­mont Fire­hall for that of Beau­mont, Texas this week. Fran­tic to get help for her daugh­ter and grand­chil­dren trapped in their home by rid­ing wa­ters from Hur­ri­cane Har­vey, she reached out with a sim­ple mes­sage Tues­day:

“Ter­rell houses are flooded. Need help.”

Shiva Shun­mugam, com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fi­cer for the town of Beau­mont, just out­side Ed­mon­ton, saw the mes­sage at 3:24 p.m. Seated in his of­fice, al­most 4,000 kilo­me­tres from Hous­ton, he didn’t hes­i­tate to re­spond, of­fer­ing to help.

First, he got in touch with the daugh­ter in Beau­mont, Texas — whose phone was about to die — and then got on the phone to her lo­cal fire depart­ment.

Then, he called the wor­ried mother back and told her the tale of two Beau­monts.

“She paused, she was sur­prised,” he told Metro Tues­day. “I think that’s when I cre­ated a trust with her and her mood was more lighter be­cause of all the dis­tress that she was go­ing through I think that was her stress-buster for a mo­ment and a funny mo­ment for her.”

The daugh­ter, along with her three kids and part­ner, re­mained stuck in their house as the an­kledeep wa­ter started to rise.

Shun­mugam checked in with her ev­ery hour as the fam­ily moved from their house to a park­ing lot on higher ground, all the while keep­ing the Texas fire depart­ment up­dated on their sit­u­a­tion.

“I could sense it in her voice that she was wor­ried and I wanted her to not feel alone,” he said.

Shun­mugam said it didn’t mat­ter where the call came from he felt it was his job to help.

“When you have a per­son and a cry for help com­ing... That is a dis­tress call, that’s a call for help and I took it se­ri­ous and you have to re­spond to the events in a re­spon­si­ble and timely fash­ion so I was glad I was able to do that and help her see through things.”

Shun­mugam con­firmed that the daugh­ter, her part­ner and three chil­dren were safe and had found shel­ter with other evac­uees in the Beau­mont, Texas civic cen­tre.

Tim PoT­Ter/for meTro

When shiva shun­mugam, com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fi­cer for the town of Beau­mont, al­berta, got a plea for help for Beau­mont, texas, he re­sponded any­way.

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