What a day...
Where do you even begin with describing such an event? Where you lose not only most of your possessions, but also your home? The place you lived in for 14 out of 20 years of your life is now reduced to nothing.
In such a situation, you realize the fragility of not only physical possessions, but also life. Nothing lasts forever, after all.
Leading into the ordeal, news reports played the storm down. I mean, it was Houston Texas we were talking about. We took on Hurricane Ike and lost a hook off a fence; this hurricane would be a trickle of rain comparatively! I remember the morning before, people in town had been laughing, "oh boy, here comes another rainstorm, soooo scary!" The mayor said we'd best stay put. Evacuations would be a terrible idea. Just "hunker down", and maybe have some water bottles 'just' in case. Regardless of the hubris everyone had, there wasn't much to do about it, anyways.
It's not like you can move an entire house.
When the rain began to fall, light droplets of water made a soothing sound as they landed upon the rooftop. Tac drop plop. "Raindrops make such a lovely noise, don't they?" I thought to myself.
I don't hold that sentiment anymore.
In the span of an hour, everything got worse. The light rain gave way into torrential waterfalls endlessly falling from the sky. It wouldn't stop. Water burst through the garage door. It seeped its way through, until it eventually got through the door into the kitchen. That's when I got a little uneasy. I began rolling up the carpets, picking cables off the floor, making sure nothing would get ruined. It would turn out to be a useless endeavor, but I still had hope then.
I walked to my room, repeating what I'd done before. I carefully unplugged everything, ensuring nothing important was on the ground. As I finished, I heard something contrasting with the pelting rain outside. A gurgling noise, disturbing and disconcerting. I turned around to see water bubbling, frothing, from the floorboards. In an instant, the water gushed up from below, and as I backed away in horror, I saw my trash can begin to float. My mouth hung open at the unreal situation before me, the water already rushing above my ankles. Watching such a thing unfold made my mind go numb, I couldn't think. I just stood and watched the brown, murky floodwater inside my own home.
My cats hopped onto a table, clearly upset at the loss of a floor to stand on. My father grumbled, disappointed that we had to unplug the TV. In a daze, I stumbled back into the main hallway, and began mindlessly picking things up and placing them on high shelves. My thoughts became a blur. Hands shaking, I held childhood mementos, and looked around for the safest spot to put them on. I was trudging sluggishly through water that was slowly raising to knee-height. When I returned to my room, the mattress atop my bed began absorbing water from below. The PC I had recently built was settled on the bed, still dry. This was the point of no return: at this moment, I knew some things couldn't be saved because the water was rising too fast, so I needed to pick and choose what I wanted to make it through.
I hoisted the nightstand beside the bed, and placed it on the watery bed. A piece of the wood crumbled in my grip, already beginning to decay from the water damage. Making sure it would be stable, I then stacked the computer on it, and started shoving important documents, my wallet, and whatever else that could fit on the highest shelf in my room.
When I returned to the living room, I felt emotionally and physically drained. Hopefully what I'd done was enough, but the feeling of dread and unease increased along with the water level. Weakly, I flopped onto the couch, only to notice that it sunk entirely when I made contact with it. Every couch and chair within the house had begun to float. My father sleepily muttered in annoyance, as the couch he was trying to sleep on proceeded to bob underwater every so often.
Of all the things going on in that moment, my dad was trying to sleep, half submerged in disgusting floodwater, while our house began to look more and more like a pool.
I laughed. What more else was there to do? I sat on a tall clothes dresser and laughed at everything around me.
There was no letting up to the storm. Not a single moment had the rain even slightly relented. I still had signal on my phone, and I kept alternating between calling the Coast Guard and the police. We had to get out. If the water kept rising, there would soon be nowhere safe left to be. Panic flooded me as I imagined being stuck, the doors unable to be open, nowhere to flee to but an endless ocean. Little did I know, the Mayor had put up the wrong number for the Coast Guard on news and emergency sites. Thousands of citizens were dialing a number that would never be answered.
At this point, I needed to move. My dad still sat on his couch in the other room, now awake, looking entirely nonplussed. He was up to his chest in water. My mom was panicked, and had chosen a tall baker's rack to sit on.
Perhaps the kitchen counter would make for a comfortable sitting location, I asked myself. This is fine.
An emergency alert rang out, the phone violently ringing and buzzing. Wearily, I looked at the message: "Warning! City of Houston faces massive flooding!"
Hopping from table to soaked chair arm, I made my way to the kitchen counter, the only remaining dry place. Most of the things in my room were probably becoming part of the new Atlantis. Whimpering, I thought about my expensive computer. I could see the top corner of it tilting, about to be submerged in the murk.
Dad followed my gaze, and asked me what I was so concerned about in there. I incredulously told him "everything!", to which he nodded, as he sloshed his way to a table to sit on. "You know, I just bought that thing...I know everything is kinda ruined now, but that just especially sucks", I muttered. "That was the thing you spent so much money on?", he cried out. Before I could respond, he was already rushing through chest high water, and disappeared from sight. He came back shortly, holding a computer above his head with one arm. For the first time since water had entered the house, he seemed to be alert and paying attention. "We're totally selling this thing if it still works", he told me, water dripping from the case of the PC.
I blinked. Nothing was phasing me at this point.
Calling the police wasn't getting anywhere. My phone was slowly dying, with not much battery left to go. I was weighing my options to chance getting electrocuted in order to plug my phone in just to call the police one last time. The rain had been going for 9 hours straight, with no end in sight. Was rescue ever going to come?
I didn't know at the time, but an old couple two streets away were currently drowning and would be dead the next morning.
Helicopters were carrying people off their roofs a neighborhood away.
I glanced out the window to see a man in a rowboat going down the street. Hello, New Venice.
More hours passed, and it was nearing dawn. Yet, with the pitch black darkness of the sky, no phone battery left, and pelting rain nonstop, it was impossible to tell the time.
Finally, finally, out of the corner of a window, I could see a man in army camp gear. He was driving a fishing boat, calling out, asking if anyone needed help. I tore the window open, yelling for rescue. My voice was hoarse, my emotional state shattered, my body weak. The boat docked somewhere above my car, the water clearly over the top. The door wouldn't budge due to the amount of water sealing it shut, so I smashed my window to pieces with a curtain rod, and climbed outside, and the boatman hoisted me on board. My parents and the dog followed, and I thanked the boatman profusely.
After hours of panic and suffering, we were safe. The initial madness was over. My family was okay, we made it.
Apparently, this man in the serious getup was just a nice guy with a boat. He was out saving people's lives, because he wanted to help. He wasn't part of the police, he wasn't part of any group. With tears in my eyes, I looked at the hero before me. When decades pass, and memories become hazy, this will be one of the things I remember clearly for the rest of my life.
He dropped us off at the local school, which had been converted into an emergency shelter. Dozens of families and pets sat inside of an elementary school cafeteria, talking, crying, finally able to sit down and be safe. I fell asleep, laying on cold tile, wearing over-sized borrowed clothing, and hugging my dog.
I woke up to my phone buzzing, now having been charged, in the middle of the day.
Hundreds of missed messages sprawled across the screen. Everyone was asking me if I was okay, how I was doing, what was going on. Feeling too overwhelmed, I skipped reading them for the moment. On pure instinct, I hit the GBAtemp icon on my browser.
What I saw, left me speechless.
For the first time since everything, I cried. (Even now, almost a year later, I cry looking at it, looking back)
I held my phone and sobbed. Sobbed for the loss of my home, everything I had, the stress, the shock...but I also cried from gratitude.
Never in my life had I felt so overwhelmed and loved.
I will always, always remember that moment, I will always be eternally grateful for what everyone did to help. It was invaluable, and really saved me when I was at my lowest and needed help the most. I remember with the first amount of donation money I received, I took a hotel shuttle through flooded streets in a ruined downtown Houston to get two giant pizzas. When I got back to the hotel, a group of flood victims there with me stared at the pizza like it was made of pure gold. I offered one to the people there, and a grown man cried, happy to finally have food days after the disaster. It was a horrible, terrible pizza, but in that moment, we'd never eaten anything better in our lives.
I'm sorry for going on so long with this. I doubt even a tenth of it will be read. I just wanted to write this, to clear my head. I try not to let this event define me, but the impact it had changed my whole life, and expressing it helps.
In the face of disaster, you have to pick yourself up. You have to keep going, no matter what happens. That way, when you make it to the other side, and everything is all said and done, you can grasp the future.
The past will always hurt. It might lessen with time, but the pain will always be there in the back of your mind. But so long as you look forward, you can move on, little by little, with every day that passes. Whenever it rains now, I feel panic. Remembering my old home causes me to tear up. Those things will stick with me for a long time, but it gets easier to deal with.
I've made a lot of progress, in the time since last August. This experience changed me, but since then, I've grown as a person, I've made new friends, and I'm incredibly happy with my life and the things I've done. The road to healing is a long one, but I'm travelling it one step at a time. Hopefully, come next August, I'll be able to say those same words once more.
Thanks for reading, guys. I probably rambled an entire book, but I feel a lot lighter, getting this all written out.
Tldr: Been a year since hurricane. Melancholy reflections. Thank you and bless you all, because I wouldn't be where I am without your help. LIFE IS GRAND!
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