With my brain still reeling from recent revelations… (Say that three times fast!?) I was forced to change gears entirely. I’ve seen and been through enough hurricanes to know that you just never know what is going to happen. The best you can hope for is to do all of your preparations, batten down the hatches, and have none of it be necessary as the storm takes that little jog right before landfall that puts you just outside of the damage zone. The worst? That little jog throwing it directly on top of you with no preparation, or the freak twist that makes a storm do something that has never been seen before… like Tropical Storm Allison in 2001 or like freak of nature that was Hurricane Harvey.
So, I prepared. And I said those things to him that I didn’t want to risk not getting the chance to say. And I hunkered down by myself, with my dogs, to see what the storm would hold. Now before I go much further, I feel like I need to explain that yes, I planned to weather the storm alone. I’ve been through many in my lifetime, and was alone through Hurricane Ike with minimal trauma or drama. Admittedly, it wasn’t what I would call a good time… but life hadn’t presented me with any other options. And so, it was with this hurricane.
Without going through the day by day, blow by blow of the week that the hurricane pummeled and drowned the city of my birth, I will say this… I’ve never seen anything like it. The winds started, and we waited for the storm to come ashore…we were on the “wet” side and we knew that the winds were not going to be our serious problem. And when the rain started, it never seemed to quite stop, for long anyway… for five straight days. But the winds weren’t done, and they were not gone. As I had so many times in my life, I pondered how I ended up alone in the middle of this and how I would’ve given anything just have someone there to hold my hand… as I have said so many times over the years, I am strong and independent because I wanted to be, but because I had to be.
So, every night spawned tornados and the panic-inducing scream of the tornado warning/watch alerts… usually as you’d just been able to calm yourself enough from the idea that you might wake up floating to barely drifting off to sleep… and the blaring siren would go off… again. And you’d drag yourself to the dually appointed “safe space” in your house…. You know the one, with no windows, in the center of the house, preferably with at least one doorway or a bathtub to use as a block for the possibility of falling debris…. Remembering to grab your cell phone so you could see where the tornado was, of if it had passed, or in case you needed to call for help… all the while gathering the animals and trying to drag them all in there with you. The warning would expire and you would head back to bed… begin to settle and calm yourself… sleep would start to come…. And the siren would go off again! With eight or nine of these each night, after a couple of days of this, the conscious decision is made to just wait until you hear the “locomotive” sound that you’ve heard about your whole life that tornados make when they are almost on top of you… then, then you will do something… in the meantime, you will try to sleep and not think about the rain or the forecast for 18+ inches that night.
I’d spent many years working in the media production industry and news. I’d even covered a couple of hurricanes and was in the studio for days during Allison…. So, my training and my work took over. I spent my days trying to disseminate updates and good information to those both in the area and those outside wanting to know what was happening. Many here were without power and had only their phones to go by, and social media was one of their main channels for staying in touch, or trying to connect, and up to date on safety, resources, options, and help. I checked on friends, neighbors, and water levels on my street, the detention ponds, and the surrounding areas. In the evenings, I would watch the local news coverage… but it was so heart-breaking to see my city being swallowed by all that water… all those lives completely altered. Once I didn’t think I could stay awake any longer, I would go to bed, desperate for sleep… and the tornado warnings would begin.
I was not at all as surprised as the rest of the country and the world seemed to be at the overwhelming out-pouring of help from ordinary people trying to help each other. Texas is so beyond a “walking-contradiction” and always has been… red-neck but cosmopolitan, rabidly religious and more than just a little rebellious and wild. We embrace being fiercely independent of all stripes. But when it all comes down to it… we are big-hearted people that are there to help. We help people, we help individuals… we stop caring about the “ideals” and the “beliefs” and the “differences.” We help what we can look in the eye… always have, and always will.
Because of some of my postings (and all of the national coverage), friends in South Carolina spent that week taking in donations. Four of them drove a truck and a trailer full of water, food, clothes, and other necessities. I had the great honor of helping them deliver and unload those supplies all over town. I also have many friends that lost almost everything except their lives, their families, and their health… and they still have the ability to smile and more than a few reasons to love.
I gratefully came through the storm unscathed, at least on the outside. I was heartbroken by the devastation to the city… and I know it will take years to recover. But for the first time, in a very long time… I was proud of my hometown… of this crazy, complicated culture from which I come. I also had many, many questions for myself, as well as clear areas that cried out for change.