Harvey Survivor Who Criticized CNN Anchor Isn't Just 'Upset,' She's Traumatized And Exhausted

A volunteer at the convention center told ESSENCE the woman was "visibly distraught" before CNN approached her.

Christina Coleman Aug, 30, 2017

A now-viral video of a woman criticizing a CNN reporter for lacking empathy in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey is eliciting some strong responses about media and the trauma Houston residents are facing.

In a short interview with anchor Rosa Flores, the woman — identified as Danielle — details her harrowing story, telling CNN about the 36 hours her family was stranded before being taken to the George R. Brown Convention Center. But when Flores pushed further, asking how she survived the surging waters with children, Danielle didn’t hold back.

“Four feet of water to go get them food on the first day. Yeah, that’s a lot of shit,” Danielle said. “But y’all sitting here — y’all trying to interview people during their worst times. That’s not the smartest thing to do. Like people are really breaking down and y’all are sitting here with cameras and microphones trying to ask us what the fuck is wrong with us.”

Flores apologized, but the microphone remained in front of Danielle.

“And you really trying to understand it with the microphone still in my face, with me shivering cold, with my kids wet and you still putting the microphone in my face.”

Back in studio, Jim Acosta segued into a break to cut the tension.

“Sounds like you’ve got a very upset family there,” he said without stating the obvious; this family is traumatized and exhausted.

Nikkole Williams, a 30-year-old social worker volunteering at the center, recalled seeing Danielle when her family first arrived.

“She was visibly shaken and distraught and understandably so,” Williams told ESSENCE. “Crisis is really difficult, especially for kids. I went up and asked how she was doing. I offered her kids snacks. I honestly didn’t even want to talk to her about what happened. You’re in a state of shock, you don’t want to relive it.”

It wasn’t until the following morning that Williams saw Danielle’s reaction to CNN. Considering the chaos at the convention center — on Monday, a number of people were turned away due to over capacity — she was surprised to see the media asking distraught families about their experiences.

“I personally was shocked. They were going up to minor children and not getting consent from parents. I don’t know if journalism rules go away in tragedies, but I was shocked,” she said. “[CNN] couldn’t have gone up to Danielle more than five minutes after I had saw her. It was a bad call.”

While most of the responses to the woman have been positive, a number of Twitter users sided with the media, saying anchors were just doing their jobs.

And while that may be true, members of the media should be more aware when reporting — in this case recognizing the obvious trauma that comes with losing your home and being stranded for days — before nudging for more information.

The story might be important, but basic humanity and empathy will go further. 

Hide Transcript
[BLANK_AUDIO] Hurricane Harvey has cause catastrophic damage in the greater Houston area with at least five people reported dead. More than a dozen injured, and then estimated 30,000 displaced. Here to talk about how natural disaster like this specifically affect black and brown communities Is Christina Coleman, Essence.com Senior News and Culture Editor. Christina, welcome to the show. Thank you for having me. No, it's a pleasure. Now, we hear the term climate change quite a bit, but some folks may not understand what that is. Can you explain what climate change is? Yeah, most simplest terms it just means that, it's the change of historic weather, right? So the weather we have in place Is changing. The problem is that we as humans are doing things like driving cars and burning gas and oil and heating up our homes. And in turn we're putting that gas into the air. And we are heating up our planet. And so it's going at a rapid pace, a more intensified pace. And what that does is change the weather. And we look at Hurricane Harvey, which turned into a tropical storm. It is Climate change. It is- When we look at Harvey, that is climate change. Now, how does climate change specifically affect black and brown communities? This one, before we even go there, I think we should talk about the shame that's surrounded Houston and people not evacuating. And I think when we look at that we can look at how flood and this unprecedented weather we 're experiencing affects black and brown people. Mm-hm. [MUSIC] [SOUND] People were wondering, but why don't you get out? Well that's a good question. Yeah. Why [CROSSTALK]. Why don't people evacuate? Because they don't have the finances to do so. Okay. And so when we talk about these storms that, they knew Houston was coming, they knew that a hurricane like Harvey Or a tropical storm like Harvey would hit Houston at some point. It's the third 500-year flood to hit Houston, right? And what happens is that policymakers and lawmakers, they know this. Areas that are hit the hardest by climate change, like Louisiana and Houston, have large, large populations of black and brown people. And the lawmakers in those areas refuse to acknowledge climate change, and in turn, they hurt communities of color, because- I'm so glad you brought that up. Carry on. No, go ahead. Black people, brown people, poor people are the ones that are hit the hardest by that because they can't get out. And it's really a shame that the policy makers, who are living or representing these states in these areas can't believe in climate change enough to save their people. Well, let's stay there for second. Let's talk about those policy makers cause we heard our President Trump refer to it as a Chinese hoax, right?. I know, sigh. Big sigh. [LAUGH] Yeah. So as, is he referring to that, as top leaders and politicians that may not believe in climate change, what can we do as just regular citizens to affect change? Yeah, so, it'd be interesting to know, I don't know what the percentage of black and brown people, if they even believe in climate change. But I think we need to look at environmental racism when we talk about climate change. So, it's just one aspect of it. It's the reason why one in six African-American, children have asthma is the reason why. I think it's 40% of African-Americans are breathing more dioxide than our white counterparts. Or whether more refineries or drug depots and things that affect our health in areas where we live. And- Wow. Yeah. It's incredible. Yeah. So it means that, in those areas there's deposits of Environmental stuff that's in our neighborhoods. Yes. That's causing our children- Yes, I mean look at Flint. When we talk about environmental racism we're also talking about Flint and the water in Flint. How is this affecting Black and brown people. And so, we have to start looking at the sanction violence against us is not just police brutality. Yeah. Or not just the systemic racism that keeps us out of schools and out of housing. But that also makes us sick. Like, the environmental racism component, as well. Yeah. Yeah. Now, let's switch gears. Let's talk about the Paris climate agreement, right? Mm hm. Which. President Trump. 45 pulled us out of it. What does that mean for us as a country, though? Cuz we read about it, but it's like, what does it mean for me? It's hard to say. So the Paris Climate Accord was supposed to help us reduce carbon pollution globally. Trump pull us out of that. I'm not sure what it's going to mean for America, but I know what it's going to mean for black and brown people. Because we are the ones to stand to be affected by that, the most. Yeah. But he has shown time and time again that he doesn't care about our communities. His reasoning for doing that was to put America first. Ooh my gosh. Right? But we know what Americans he's talking about when he says put America First. Right. So closing out, we have to talk about those people that are like, you know what, I have bread and butter issues. I have educational issues. Yes. I have other issues. I don't really view the environment as a priority, what would you say to them? [BLANK_AUDIO] It's important, it is. I think it's almost obvious that it's important. Our health is important. And when you look at what we face as black and brown people, whether that's The diseases that we're more prone to having. It's because of what we're exposed to. It's because we've been pushed to these areas and we don't have the resources to get out. And we don't have the people lobbying for us and protecting us in those policy areas. And so it needs to be a top priority as we resist. [BLANK_AUDIO]

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