As Hurricane Rita, the third-strongest Atlantic storm on record, bore down on the Texas coast as the third strongest Atlantic storm on record last week, Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas was in high demand for television interviews seen around the world.
Her city was in peril and people wanted to know what she was doing to protect lives and property on Galveston Island.
In individual interviews on such shows as the Today Show, Nightline and on CNN, as well as during televised, twice-daily briefings for dozens of journalists covering the storm, Thomas appeared cool and collected. She was forceful in her pleas that citizens evacuate Galveston, poised to handle any question and genuinely concerned about the safety of all citizens, rich and poor.
The performances resulted in a flood of e-mails from around the world from people complimenting Thomas and other city officials for their handling of the emergency, particularly for the preparation and execution of an evacuation on publicly owned buses of more than 3,200 poor and disabled people who had no easy way to get out of town.
"I am ... impressed with your evacuation plans," wrote one person from Canada. "Thank you for remembering the seniors, disabled and poor people in your city plans. Job well done."
Two people from Sweden sent their compliments and asked Thomas to send them autographed photos for their collections "of very important persons of today's world."
From a Chico, Calif., woman came commendations "on your quick action to save the citizens of your city."