Documenting the Disaster


Exactly one week ago today...

I was discussing with co-workers how quickly things shifted from tropical storm to tropical depression. As my family and I have only lived in Houston for 7 years, we have yet to experience a hurricane…so I’ve always felt a little out of the loop and ill-equipped as I watch others prepare. There were discussions of the unbelievable rush to grocery stores and long lines of people in pursuit of water and gas; comparisons of past hurricane’s and tropical storms; debates on the likelihood that people were freaking over nothing or not freaking out enough… The scene felt familiar. And yet something felt slightly off…as the day wore on, and things became increasingly ominous, I crossed a threshold from interested to anxious. I participated in my first frenzied store run (which, if you know me, you know that I have ADHD and am extremely sensitive to simultaneous auditory and visual stimulation such that I avoid the grocery store like the plague and have to wear earbuds with music blaring in the event that I happen to brave such a chaotic environment… And my oldest daughter is exactly like me…but guess who had to come with me? You guessed it.). I remember feeling conflicted about how much water to grab from the shelf, knowing there wasn’t much left and families stood behind me waiting.Fast-forward to Saturday, as the rain began to fall, I did what I always do and pulled out my camera. Initially, things seemed pretty benign…a bad rain storm. However, as we moved into Saturday evening and Sunday, conditions became more dire. Hundred of tornadoes broke out. Winds were high…the rain was unceasing…and the flood waters rose. We are unbelievably lucky to live in a neighborhood that was relatively unscathed.

Here’s how our neighborhood faired during the storm...

Meanwhile, as you know, thousands of my fellow Houstonians were displaced as their homes were submerged in water. People were left scrambling for safety with a handful of possessions as a literally unprecedented amount of rain fell. By now you’ve seen tons of images of individuals clinging to street signs or trudging through waist-high water…mothers and fathers gripping their babies as they were air-lifted from their roofs… children being carried out their homes by first-responders from their flooded home… the elderly trapped in wheelchairs and hospital beds inside nursing homes as water rose chest-high…people being pulled from car windows…  and on and on and on… I was moved by the thousands of rescues made by both emergency personnel working literal 24-hour shifts; as well as average citizens—from Houston, Louisiana, and beyond—armed with nothing but umbrellas, ropes, mud boats or high-profile vehicles, and their cellphones. But my heart ached,  and continues to ache, as I watch others suffer.  Images keep playing in my head of one family of 6 we picked up on a flooding highway, grasping their children in torrential rain, every possession contained in a few bags and trash bags, their infant daughter crying as they lifted her into a stranger's car with nothing but faith that we meant them no harm. Even now, the thought of having to decide that leaving our house and striking out on foot amid rising water and Biblical-level rainfall with a handful of items and the clothes on our backs, would ultimately be the best-case scenario… I can’t even fathom it. Each day, my family and I would venture out as far as we could to help others where we could (donations, transportation, collecting and storing belongings)—and I would document the damage we encountered along the way. Eventually, we were able to make it all the way downtown to survey some of our favorite spots. To my delight, I saw hundreds of Houstonians doing the same—laughing, riding bikes, tossing case-upon-case of water and food into the cars to take to nearby shelters…Being…normal…determined…strong. And I’ve never been prouder to be a part of anything in my life.

This is HoUSton. And we will be back. Stronger.

Want to help but not in a position to get here and get dirty? No worries. Here’s a great article on the many ways you can help (and avoid getting scammed).