In 2017, thousands evacuated southeast Texas in preparation for Hurricane Harvey. As they sped down the highway away from the storm, one car drove toward it. Inside it was Russell Lewis.

Officially, Lewis is NPR's Southern Bureau chief, but he's also known as the go-to guy on NPR's "go team," which covers earthquakes, fires, flood and other disasters; both natural and man-made. Lewis is often the first member of the team on a plane and on the ground, setting up logistics, drivers, translators and supplies in places where systems have broken down, so NPR can bring those events to listeners.

On Second Thought host Virginia Prescott speaks with Russell Lewis.

Lewis joined On Second Thought from WBHM in Birmingham, Alabama. We asked him how he connects with communities to tell their stories in the wake of tragedies.

"You have to understand that they've just been through what is probably one of the worst days of their lives and they've survived, and maybe some of their family members and friends didn't," Lewis said. "One of the first things that I always do is I ask somebody, how are you doing? Are you okay? And I don't do that necessarily with my microphone out. I'm just showing them that I'm a person and that I'm understanding the difficulties that they're going through."


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