As the second major storm in a matter of weeks bears down on the southeast of the country, many Americans are indulging in their favorite pageant special. But co-hosts Chris Harrison and Sage Steele announced during the Sept. 10 broadcast that Miss America 2018 is dedicated to Hurricane Irma victims, in a show of support for those on that embattled coast. The broadcast includes appeals for donations to the Red Cross, as well as updates from ABC News on the devastation of the storm.
Several of the contestants competing in the show have already voiced messages of support and encouragement for those struggling in Hurricane Harvey’s wake, and updates about Irma will play throughout the competition. Miss Texas Margaret Wood recorded a message to Harvey victims in her Houston hometown before going on to win the swimsuit competition, Fox News reported. According to The Fresno Bee, Wood told the press after the preliminaries, "I'm so excited to be here in Atlantic City, but my heart is absolutely with the people of Houston. That’s my home."
Wood almost didn’t make it to the competition due to an unusual combination of hurricanes and...Coldplay? Yes, the Texan apparently had tickets a year in advance for a concert in Houston, only to have that be the very day the hurricane rolled through. As she told NJ.com, “On the inside I was joking, the one time I get to go see Coldplay, and Harvey comes around!” The concert was cancelled, and she and her team ended up going to Dallas a day early. “It’s crazy to think had I gone to the concert and left the next day, I wouldn’t have made it out," she said to NJ.com. The flooding, it happened so fast; all of the roads would have been closed.” While she’s expressed gratitude to have made it to the competition, she’s still showed concern about the situation. In the same interview, Wood said:
“To get on a plane here and compete for Miss America in light of this catastrophe was really disheartening and a very confusing time. I want to be excited for my experience here, but at the same time, my heart’s still in Houston.”
More than any other contestant, as she set out to compete in the finals, Miss Florida Sara Zeng was aware that her friends and family may not be able to watch. Speaking with NJ Advance Media, she said “I have so many friends literally all over Florida; my home is in Florida...not being able to be there is really hard right now, but I just want every Floridian to know my heart is there with them.”
And there's still plenty to be concerned about. On the day of the finals, The Sun-Sentinal reported that more than 2 million people in south Florida lost power in Hurricane Irma, and the storm hasn’t finished wreaking havoc on the state. Recovery is likely to be slow, with prolonged outages due to the dangerous nature of electrical repairs in flooded areas.
During the finals, Zeng was able to address her home stage live. “I’m just so worried about everyone there, but I’m so happy that some of my friends and family are here right now and that they’re safe," she said. "I’m thinking about everyone in Florida every single day, but I know that no matter what happens, we’re strong and we can do it. We can get through everything together.”
Updates about Irma will continue to pepper the competition, as more information comes in from Florida. The 400-mile wide storm moves up the state’s coast, with Tampa the next major city directly in the hurricane’s path. During the first hour of the competition, the CEO of Miami International Airport announced the airport will be closed Sept. 11 due to “sustained, significant water damage,” though there are conflicting reports about flights coming and going. According to Reuters, American Airlines will resume flights on a limited basis from the airport Monday, though flights at other airports remain cancelled. Winds of over 100mph are still being reported, and it’s unknown how quickly recovery and rebuilding will happen in Florida.
While some Americans are looking towards rebuilding and others are still in the path of a storm, Miss America 2018 does well to not forget about them. Though the gowns are still fabulous and the talents are still shining, the broadcast shows respect and compassion in a very classy way.