For the past four days, the city of Houston, its suburbs and coastal communities were all brought to their knees with catastrophic flooding and massive damage from hurricane/tropical storm Harvey. The amount of rainfall we received is unprecedented. The majority of Houston and its environs are under several feet of water, some reservoirs, rivers, and bayous have crested their banks, and people who thought their neighborhoods would never flood are now in shelters, unsure of whether they will have a home to return to once the water recedes. The devastation is of massive proportions and it is heart-wrenching to witness.
For the past four days, I witnessed this alongside Peter from our home, which didn’t flood, didn’t sustain any damage, and didn’t lose electricity except for a brief outage that lasted less than an hour. I was able to do a load of laundry, grab a cold drink from the refrigerator, bake a batch of cookies, stream live news coverage on the Internet, charge my iPhone and laptop, turn on lights, and do all the day-to-day activities we all don’t think twice about. I’m not saying this to be callous; it’s quite the opposite: it is not lost on us how fortunate we are to have weathered such a horrible natural disaster and come out unscathed. Currently there are thousands of people who don’t know when they will be able to return home to do the day-to-day chores, cook a hot meal, play with their dog in the back yard, or host a dinner party. There are many who may not even have a home to return back to.
The most remarkable aspect of having gone through this storm is witnessing how the citizens of Houston banded together to help each other in any way they could. People across the city who were fortunate like us to have escaped flooding and damage came out with their cars, boats, and trucks to bring their flooded neighbors to safety, shuttle them to shelters, and conduct searches. Our city’s convention center and football stadium, both converted to shelters, had so many volunteers show up that some had to be turned away because there wasn’t enough work to go around. Donations of food, water, clothing, and toiletries are coming in by the minute to every shelter set up throughout the city. Even more remarkable is how many people who have lost practically everything are staying positive, grateful, and calm. They have endured massive emotional, financial, and physical distress and there is no doubt they are devastated, sad, and angry, but many still have a smile on their face. I’m embarrassed to admit this but will admit it anyway: I don’t know if I would be able to handle a crisis of this nature as gracefully as so many others have.
This ordeal is far from over. As I write this, cities east of Houston are getting pounded with rain as this storm continues to linger over the Gulf coast. More people will face flooding and may lose their homes. Once this storm is completely gone, the hard work will begin. It will be long: weeks for some, months for others, a year or more for many more. I spent some time these past few days wanting to help but feeling overwhelmed about how to give it. My feeling of helplessness dissipated quickly after a few deep breaths and a look at social media which continues to add to a growing list of places in need of help and supplies. Peter and I now know how best we can help and we are filled with gratitude for being able to bring whatever supplies and donations we can to our fellow Houstonians. Please consider donating if you feel compelled to do so. No amount is too small. Below is a list of links to various organizations that are collecting donations to help our city.