by: Pamela Lott
It's been the only word that I have been able to find to describe the destruction that Hurricane Harvey unleashed upon not only my city of Houston, Texas but on a large portion of south Texas, western Louisiana and many other parts of the country. In Texas, it's true, we like to go big or go home and Harvey unfortunately got in the Texas spirit. I personally wish he had just gone home.
I am a native Texan and a native Houstonian. I love my state and my city greatly and anyone that knows me can vouch that I represent the H on a daily basis with beaming pride. Watching the destruction and aftermath of something I love dearly has been worse than any break up I have ever gone through. You see, the contradictory laid back, hustle and bustle nature of my city has always been a constant for me. The sprawling city has so many niche neighborhoods that it takes me a minimum of an hour to get across Houston to see my own mother and I wouldn’t have it any other way (love ya mom!). People talk about NYC being diverse and multicultural (and it is…don’t get me wrong!), but the city I refer to dearingly as “my home” is the same way. During the drive to my mom’s, I pass through many eclectic areas and ethnic enclaves, four main suburbs and a variety of fusion neighborhoods. The diversity of Houston is one reason why I have always called it home (besides a brief stint of thinking I was a Cali girl) and chose going to college here over many options on my plate at that time because I knew my hometown would make me a well-rounded adult able to accept and understand many cultures. Diversity is something that can be beautiful if we let it be. Diversity creates the fusions that are new and exciting to our senses, palettes and experiences. Diversity is what this country is built upon yet sometimes something so beautiful can tear us all apart. In a time where so much is going on not just in the world but in our own country, cities, suburbs and streets; Hurricane Harvey reminded me that there is so much more to, not only life, but us as individuals.
Houses, cars, street signs and trees became engulfed with flood waters as over 50 inches of rain fell in some areas of the city. Houston is a city built for flooding and drains quickly but literally nothing is built for a storm like Harvey. Drainage backed up with debris and copious amounts of water, causing bayous, dams and levees to exceed anything beyond their conceptual holdings. Areas that have never remotely come close to flooding found themselves with houses on un asked for “lakefront property.” A storm sat on the city churning out water, lightning and storms and went back over the gulf to pick up even more water to dump upon us. Wide spread and slow moving, Harvey started his terror a couple of weeks ago, but I feel like I have aged at least a year in the meantime. I still have difficulty recalling what day it is as all I have done for a week is volunteer to lend a helping hand wherever I can. I have assisted people with shoveling and trashing their life belongings out on a street along with sheetrock, house siding and substances from flood waters there was no telling what was mixed into its before the stench of mold and mildew set in place in their homes. Surreal.
Some people lost everything. Some people scathe by with a leak in their roof (me). Some people carried pets over their shoulders and floated children in plastic containers to make it to safety. Absolutely surreal. In a way, that is part of what makes the situation beautiful. I have learned that in destruction and decay, there is true beauty. It is stripped down to its rawest form and it’s where true humanity peaks back out unafraid of what society will think. In a time of need, we saw compassion in our diverse community. A trait that is almost extinct in some areas. There were no barriers of politics, color, social class or even stupidity. It became people helping people survive and literally weather a storm together. It became public buildings opening their doors to take people in off the streets and give them a sense of security. It became the face of thousands of volunteers rising to the call of action.
Houston, as diverse as it is, became one community.
As I type this now, flood waters still run rampant in certain areas of the city. Many highways are still shut down as water pump trucks make their way around. Traffic is an even worse nightmare than it was before (that one hour drive I talked about earlier, became a two hour drive today!), people are still shoveling debris out of their homes and office buildings, trash and belongs line roads and subdivisions like mini great walls or somebody’s sad idea of “artistic” fencing. It will be months, if not, years before some areas get back to a sense of what they call normal. People have slowly started going back to work (many missing much needed pay for a week because of the weather or they were flooded in) and volunteering is in a higher demand since others have had to attempt to return to work and be productive. The one community aspect will die a way piece by piece as people try to move on with their lives, BUT one guarantee that I can make is that it will forever be a part of us ….especially on the anniversary of the storm that changed us all. Whether you were actually here, traveling, have family here, grew up here or lived here briefly, you were a part of Houston during that time and all positive vibes were felt, understood, appreciated and will never be forgotten.
We may have bent, but we are not broken. Everybody bends in their own way. We are Houston Strong and we are starting to see hope in the aftermath of Harvey. They say the bigger the storm, the brighter your rainbow and I see a stronger and more united front of my city coming out of this. For this storm, too, shall pass.
Pamela Lott is a a travel and fitness blogger based in Houston, Texas. Her goal is that I aspire to inspire the world, one day at a time. You can follow along with her adventures on Instagram at @besamor44.