During difficult times Houston showed its true spirit, the kind of humanity we often think has disappeared. This is when I saw neighbours helping neighbours, strangers helping strangers. Black, white, yellow and brown all coming together as one. In the midst of this inclement weather, shelters opened up. People rushed forward with their pillows, toilet papers, blankets, socks. Here’s a touching and candid account by Sukanya from Texas, not far away from Houston. A Different Truths exclusive.
On Thursday, I finally got into my car and headed out to get some water. The fridge was already stocked, and we had candles at home. We were told a hurricane is coming towards Corpus Christi, and by Friday night we will get rained. Having stayed here during Allison, Rita and Ike, I was not so bothered. We were not in the eye of the hurricane, so wind damage was not a fear, all we will get was the rain. Now, those living in Houston will be daunted by the rains, it is so common place for us.
We don’t live in Houston proper. We live in a fast growing city called League City. It is close to the bay. Seven minutes from our house is the Galveston bay. And 30 plus minutes away is the Gulf of Mexico, we are used to strong winds and hurricane warnings, we are aware of the dangers of flash floods. The hurricane that was headed our way was another little dent in our normal lives.
Friday night the hurricane named Harvey made landfall, wreaking devastation and damages across Corpus Christi, Rockport, and its surroundings. Then it slowly headed our way, changing its appearance and became a tropical storm. It came gently to us the first day, and I was thinking that Harvey was such a disappointment, but Harvey was a sneaky one. All of a sudden Harvey became real ugly. Swelling up in fury, Harvey came pouring down on us. It’s lashing rain filled up our streets, broke through roofs, and entered our homes. Our neighbourhood is on higher grounds was not spared from Harvey’s wrath. Our streets drained the water fast, but not all were lucky. Harvey’s destruction was unimaginable and fast. Families were stranded in their homes and had to be evacuated with boats and helicopters. Three nights went by, but H was not giving up. He was relentless. Every neighbourhood opened up a shelter, it was filled to capacity.
That is when questions came crawling in. Why did our Mayor not ask for a mandatory evacuation? Unless you live and have lived in the city of Houston, you might not understand why our Mayor didn’t suggest an evacuation. We were here when Hurricane Rita came and was asked to evacuate. En masse the Texans took to the roads, heading out to safety and instead got caught in traffic. Sweltering heat, running out of gas and air conditioning not working, that time many died on the roads. They died of sheer exhaustion and heat, and then Hurricane Rita came, ignored us and went away. That memory was raw on our minds, and we knew evacuating more than 6 million people would be a bad idea. What if we got caught in another traffic, being in a water logged street will be far more dangerous than being in a home filled water. Also, keep in mind Houston and its surrounding is very large, it is near impossible to know which parts will be affected, who to evacuate.
Now going back to the city of Houston where the soil is heavily clayed and has numerous waterways crisscrossing. When we have massive rainfalls the waters head out to the ditches and retention ponds, which are normally dry. Then comes something like Harvey. A hurricane that rapidly gathered strength and became category 4. Then it stalled and its intensity diminished. Sadly it stalled near the Gulf of Mexico, where the warm waters continued to feed it and turned it into an insatiable monster. This monster then stalled over Houston pouring out all its anger. The gulf water continued pushing towards the land and made it impossible for the water accumulated in the land to get drained into the Gulf. Rains continue and more streets got flooded.
During this difficult times when Houston showed its true spirit, the kind of humanity we often think has disappeared. This is when I saw neighbours helping neighbours, strangers helping strangers. Black, white, yellow and brown all coming together as one. In the midst of this inclement weather, shelters opened up. People rushed forward with their pillows, toilet papers, blankets, socks. I always loved shopping at HEB, now I will shop there more – they opened their doors as a shelter. Once again, I am awed by our law enforcement, EMT, nurses and other first responders, volunteers – how tenderly they carry the vulnerable to safety. How their strong arms protect those terrified animals. They all worked overtime, tired and drawn they continued with their relief and rescue operations.
This afternoon, when I went to the shelter with my children to volunteer help, I saw rooms filled with clothes, shoes, beddings, blankets, toys, and toiletries. Not some but a whole lot. Three shelters close to our home had already stocked up. In just one day people had donated so much. Another thing that I saw, and it mattered to me – was that some of the shelters were housing animals too. Crates were filled with cats and dogs. They were being walked, loved on and fed. (I just imagine my Apollo having to go through this, how terrified he would have been). I have not lived in any other state, so I will speak for my state – when it comes to love, compassion and a strong community feeling – the Texans have always proven themselves to be way beyond best, and they continue to do so. We cross beyond party lines, cast aside our political differences, our racial issues, our social issues, the divisiveness disappears and we come together. Despite Harvey, at the end, we won.
We are indeed Texas tough.
I will end with what I just heard on CNN, “Mother Nature at her worst, human nature at its best”.
©Sukanya Juno Biswas
Photos by author, one from the Internet
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Sukanya Juno Biswas grew up in Kolkata, India. She did MA in English from Calcutta University. She loves books, Bob Dylan, Baez and Boxer dogs. When she gets time away from two human kids and two animals, she writes. A complete realist, off and on romantic, an atheist – in the present climate of uncertainty, would have loved a perfect world, though aware it’s not possible. She has been living in Texas for last 17 years.