Saturday, September 2, 2017

HoUSton Strong

It is day 6 of Hurricane Harvey aftermath. I'm still home. It's been a tremendous storm that hit the southeast region of Texas. We never could have forseen the consequence this storm would bring us.

Day One: Friday night in Houston was rather calm. Some rain came in, but it was light. It appeared to be not as strong as anticipated at first. But the news did continue to warn us that it wasn't over yet. Thursday night the Texans game played side by side from the weather reports.

Day Two: Saturday is when it really hit. It hit. It. Hit. Hard. First it hit the southwest and southeast areas of Houston. I have a teacher in southwest and a sister in southeast. I couldn't sleep. I stayed up most of the night. I may have doze off for an hour around 3 a.m., but jumped up and immediately checked back in with my sister. She was still safe. So was my teacher. 

Day Three: Sunday got even worse as the rain continued to pour in with no end in sight. Streets began to flood. Rivers, creeks, name it! It all began to slowly rise. It became a nightmare. Television stations ran around the clock coverage with no commercials. Celebrities-JJ Watt, Kevin Hart, The Rock- started challenging each other and the public to donate to the recovery of this what we didn't know at the moment to be the most catastrophic storm disaster to hit the United States. 

Day Four: Monday was a day of saving grace. All day long the news reporters reported all the lives being saved from flooded neighborhoods by first responders, neighbors and strangers. The sight of water everywhere was unimaginable. Water continued to rise in neighborhoods. Freeways looked like oceans. Streets were no where to be found. People climbed into the second story of their homes (if they had a two story!)  Others were on the roof of their homes. All desperate to be taken to safer grounds. The 911 emergency line could not even keep up with calls. Fortunately, dozens of volunteers from Louisiana-Cajun Navy showed up with boats ready to work; ready to rescue and save lives. Shelters began filling up. More shelters were opened to accommodate all the people needing a safe haven; a warm dry place to eat and to wait the storm out. All the while the rain continued to pour in. We still anticipated the last of the rain. Voluntary and mandatory evacuations continued. 

Day Five: Tuesday arrived and shelters were ripping at the seems with people from across the city. Those that could get away from their homes lined up at shelters to provide dry clothes, toiletries, blankets, towels, diapers, baby formula etc... Others lined up to volunteer. Most did both. The amount of service from people all over the city was astounding! Reservoirs were released early Tuesday morning which led to more flooding in neighborhoods. There was recession in some areas, while other areas began to get more water. Grocery stores and some restaurants began to open to provide warm meals. People slowly came out of their homes; those that could anyway. Grocery stores were only opened for a limited time. They opened under controlled conditions.  Lines began to form to get in because their staff was limited and they could only service so many people at a time. Breads, meats, milk and produce was still scarce, however most other foods could be found in some stores. The news began to report the loss of one of the Houston Police Department officers. He was missing since Sunday. He was finally found under water. He had taken over 2 hours to find a way to get to work. He had left his home at 4 a.m. and never made it. He had unknowingly driven into flooded waters and lost his life. He had served the department for over 30 years. The Chief of Police spoke on the unfortunate news. It was an emotional message he had to deliver. I cried.

Television stations still ran 24 hour news about the storm and its effects- with no commercials. Then mid day came and a beam of light peaked through the clouds. It was a beam we had not seen in days. The sun shined upon our city. We knew the end of this horrific storm was near.

Day Six: Wednesday morning appeared like a normal morning if you looked out the window. The sun shone like it should in the morning.  Much of the water had receded. Many people were starting to venture out to see where they could go. More restaurants and grocery stores opened; the ones that could anyway. Bread and milk was still difficult to find in most places. Social media continued to run rampart with stories of saving lives and long line grocery stores. Since much of the water was beginning to recede, missing persons announcements became evident. People searching for people they have not heard from since the storm hit. A family of six who had attempted to evacuate the flooding waters had gotten swept away in their van during the storm. Their van was located. None of them survived. There was talk of a possible plant explosion. Local television stations started having breaks for commercials.

Day Seven: Its 6 a.m. The news is covering a story of the plant beginning to have explosions. Its a plastics plant. The chemicals from the plant needed to be kept at a certain cool temperature. Due to the flooding, they lost not only their normal power but the power to their back up generators.  A fire is burning and several officers were taken to the hospital as a precaution from their exposure to the chemicals. I was able to finally get out of my vicinity. All freeways leading out were blocked with water the past days. My kids and I visited with a couple of my staff members that had been displaced and took them groceries. Grocery stores still had controlled lines. Fast food places began having long lines as people needed something else to eat. Television stations slowly started returning to normal programming. Some of my teachers went to help another teacher who needed help with her home.

Day Eight: The first day television program returned to normal. The news still covered the aftermath of the storm through most of the broadcast. However, the regular shows where shown. JJ Watt's fundraising efforts had reached 15 million. I got away again. This time going to assist our senior high hand out supplies to people in need. It was emotional to see the wealth of volunteers out in the heat there to help others in need. 

The freeways began looking like freeways. Stores were opened with exception to the ones that flooded. The sun was shining on our city again. 

The city has slowly begun to come back to what will be a new normal. It will take time to heal, time to rebuild and time to feel normal again. We are getting through this in each other's own way. Those who suffered floods, home damage, relocation all have to gain their strength and their persistence to feel normal again. Even those who were saved from the physical damages of the storm still have rebuilding of their own. It isn't a physical rebuild, but rather a spiritual rebuild. 

This city has truly made a huge impression on our country. The city endured the storm together and is rising above it together. When you can say there are so many volunteers that you have to turn them away? That is a blessing. When piles of donations continue to pour in to shelters and churches that you have to start denying some. That is a blessing. 

Harvey taught me more about determination, persistence and the basic foundation of human kindness. There is still many more ramifications from the storm that we will hear throughout the coming days. These stories will bring tears of sadness, but not without strength. We will stand strong through it all. Texas Strong.