This past week, myself and almost every other Houstonian, were either trapped in their homes due to rising flood waters, or even worse, forced to evacuate to higher grounds. In all honesty, I didn’t expect the storm to devastate such a vast part of the city, I mean, it’s Houston, and what’s hurricane season without the threat of a flood. Plus, I live in the suburbs, and there’s no way that Harvey would ever affect my area, as so I thought. If I would have known how wrong I was in the days before the storm hit, I would have caught a flight out of the city before the madness and mayhem officially began. I was so confident that my neighborhood would emerge unscathed, that when the rain started, I hopped in my SUV to pick up a friend that had started to lose power off and on in her neighborhood to bring her to my house. The streets were not yet flooded, so it never crossed my mind that my Harvey adventures began the moment I decided to head across town.
As I was in route, the rain picked up to a point that I could barely see the road in front of me. I thought about pulling over to a gas station, but I wanted to hurry up and pick her up, so that just maybe we would have a chance to catch the Mayweather fight highlights. I had went to the store the day before and had all of my 2017 snacks and liquor cabinet well stocked just in case anyone wanted to come over during the storm. So, even as I drove through the rain, it never crossed my mind that it would be 4 days before I would make it back to enjoy the comforts of my home.
Pulling into my friend’s neighborhood, I realized fast that the water was rising rapidly, and that if I didn’t get on high, dry land fast, I risked my SUV stalling and having to be left in the already high water. I was able to get within 3 blocks of my friend’s house, and on her advice, I parked my vehicle at the neighborhood park that sat on high ground, laced up my sneakers, channeled my inner Usain Bolt, and sprinted in the pouring rain to the safety of her home. The rescuer had turned into the rescuee in less than 45 minutes.
The rain that started on Saturday didn’t give us a reprieve until Tuesday, and my neighborhood that I thought was as unsinkable as the Titanic, almost shared the same fate. But in the midst of the storm, literally and figuratively, Harvey brought out the best in people and communities and inspired the lessons below:
Count your blessings to limit your stressing.
It took one attempted trip to my neighborhood to realize that maybe the best thing that could have happened to me was getting stranded at my friend’s house. While water never made it into our homes, many cars, including one of our own, was flooded as they sat on the streets, and the neighborhood streets were flooded and impassable, even for larger trucks. There’s nothing like seeing Sheriff’s and boats at the entrance of your neighborhood to help stranded residents get to higher ground. At that time, I didn’t know whether water had made it into the house, but I caught myself getting overly emotional thinking about the “things” that could have possibly been lost in the storm. It didn’t take long for me to put my life into perspective when I remembered that even though I had been out of my home for days and might have lost property, I was safe, my family was safe, and while stuff could be replaced, life can not, and there were people that would be mourning their family members after it was all said and done. For the 4 days I was out of my home, I had food, I had water, I had cable, I had internet, I had cell service, I had liquor, so how dare I complain when people had to be evacuated off of their roofs?!?
Your worst day is someone else’s best day.
The past few days have been filled with media portrayals reminiscent of Hurricane Katrina 12 years ago. From helicopter and boat rescues to horrific stories of families losing all of their belongings or even worse, their life, the media has been there to capture it all. There were times when the footage was so overwhelming that I had to swear off any news coverage for hours just to get a reprieve. But through most of it, people kept cell phone coverage, which allowed you to keep tabs on your family and friends, but also brought to the forefront how many people that you physically knew that were going through the same circumstances as those witnessed in the media. Today, as I helped a close friend, whose house flooded in the storm, tear sheetrock off of his walls and sort through waterlogged cabinets and closets to salvage any goods, I realized that besides minor inconveniences and property loss, my family walked away unscathed. Almost everyone in Houston knows someone that had to be evacuated, knows someone that lost their property, and possibly someone that perished in the storm, or even worse, they were that someone.
Houston is a village.
However, through all of the heartache, heartbreak, and devastation of this weekend, I couldn’t be prouder to be a Houstonian. The way that people have stepped up and gone above and beyond to help those affected in the various communities across the city has been absolutely amazing! When the weather finally gave a reprieve, I walked through my friend’s neighborhood to survey the damage (and to get my iPhone charger out my car which was still at the park), and on every street, there was an inquiring neighbor offering a helping hand and/or to share a cocktail or 2. All up and down my social media timeline, I’ve been watching the city come together and do what needs to be done because its the right thing to do regardless of skin color, religion, etc. And it is this that lets me know that when the water clears, we will rebuild, stronger and better than ever.