When Hurricane Harvey struck the Houston area this past summer, it changed countless lives forever. The property damage left over 30,000 people displaced, and a community wondering how they’ll ever recover.
But in the middle of all the wreckage and devastation, there were also signs of hope.
And one of the most memorable images from the disaster was of a man, flood waters rising around his feet, playing a beautiful song on the piano:
I went back to our street today because as you guys have probably seen the water has come back with a vengeance. I hope this was its high point. I grabbed the kids' favorite stuffed animals that we had left behind and a couple of games to keep the kids occupied. I think it's all finally sinking in a little. What we used to have going as a city is gone. I really think God is going to do something completely new here. I am excited to see the new beauty in the suffering. Our pastor @bruce_wesley reminded us of that truth from Romans 8 this morning on his Facebook Live broadcast. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:18-28 ESV
Harding’s 14-year-old son, Rylor, is a passionate musician, and as the home flooded he was most concerned about the damage to the piano. Harding recorded a tune to reassure him.
“We had more than two feet of water in the house during the storm,” Harding told Inside Edition. “I had gone back to my house to get some stuff. My older son, he’s a piano player. So I stopped and had a buddy videotape me playing it.”
But sitting at that piano was also a special moment for Harding, who came to terms with the reality of the storm.
“I think it’s all finally sinking in a little. What we used to have going as a city is gone,” he wrote in the caption to his video on Instagram. Like countless others, Harding and his family suffered from the storm—indeed, that beloved piano did end up with some permanent flood damage.
But Harding remained optimistic:
“I am excited to see the new beauty in the suffering.”
But for many people in the wake of the storm, the image of Harding playing the piano amidst the flood waters was the beauty in the suffering. As the video went viral, more and more people felt inspired by the image of hopefulness.
And it caught the attention of one well-known musician.
One of the people who were moved by Harding’s video was platinum-selling singer-songwriter Vanessa Carlton. A pianist herself, Carlton was deeply affected by the sight:
“I’ll never forget the moment I saw that video of Aric playing his piano in a flooded living room,” Carlton told CNN. “I couldn’t go back to my normal day after seeing that image.”
And of course, Carlton too has experience playing the piano in dangerous places:
But Carlton was so moved that she decided she needed to do something—and shortly after the video hit, she offered to help the family:
This story is so important. Is there a way I can get his contact info? I'd like to get him a replacement piano if this one doesn't make it.
— Vanessa Carlton (@VanessaCarlton) August 31, 2017
And the musician made good on her promise.
She immediately contacted Yamaha, her sponsor, to see if they could hook Harding up with a new piano. The company agreed, but decided to wait until Harding and his family were settled in.
But the CEO, Tom Sumner, called Harding up and let him know how much the video meant to him.
“Music sort of transcends everything,” Sumner told CNN. “It was kind of mournful seeing him sitting there in the water playing the piano.”
Now, months after the storm hit, life has begun to return to normal for Harding and his family—so it was time to get that piano.
Harding and his family got to choose the piano themselves—and at the store, Harding teared up watching his son test the new keys.
“Music has always been a part of our family and for Rylor to have his identity back is a big deal,” Harding told the Houston Chonicle. “We have a piece of the family back.”
@aricharding, who became the subject of a viral video when he sat in floodwater and played a piano in his home, laughs and cries as he watches his son play a new, donated piano in his mostly-repaired home in Friendswood. Harding said he originally recorded the video to give hope to his teenage son. "You can get wrapped up in circumstances," Harding said. "Or, you can choose hope." ( @jonjshapley / Houston Chronicle ) #houston #texas #hurricane #hurricaneharvey #hope #smile #cry #tears #happy #joy #emotions #piano #child #son #parents
After the brand-new piano was delivered, things started to feel like home again.
“To see a piano, which is a staple in our home, come back, it really felt like we were getting our house back together,” Harding told Inside Edition.
“I’m hoping that it’ll look like a bit of a full circle—a continuation of restoration,” he added to CNN.
The painting hung over our new @yamahamusicusa piano was painted by a very talented friend of mine. @jenniferzetts She painted the image of me at the piano surrounded by the flood water. It captures what was such hard moment for our family and our city so beautifully. I think it is important to have so present here because soon our house is going to be completely rebuilt. It will have taken prob 6 months but all of the evidence of the destruction of our home will be wiped away. I don’t want us to forget what the flood took away, what it taught us, and all it brought to our family. #artmatters #harvey #flooddays #h7
Harding was incredibly grateful for the kindness of the strangers who helped him out—but Vanessa Carlton was thrilled she could make it happen.
“I am blown away by everyone who came to the plate and made this happen for this family!” she told CNN.
“This world is a pretty spectacular place sometimes.”
Not only was it an incredible act of kindness, it was a great way for Harding and his family to settle into their new home.
“From the 10 years that we had lived there, it had been a collection of our life,” Harding told CNN. “It’s all wiped out and this is all new.”
“Hopefully this is a good, fresh start for our family.”
A huge thank you to @yamahamusicusa @vanessacarltonactual and Fort Bend Music Center for making our new piano happen. It was a cool moment today when the piano rolled into the house and landed in its new home. This new piano sits almost in the exact location that our old piano sat. The sound of music will fill our home again. Our home is getting closer and closer everyday to being our new normal. Thank you guys for all your prayers!