You see disasters on the news all the time.
Hashtags that say #PrayFor [Insert City Name]
And you feel bad. You hurt. You move on.
Except this time, it was my city that people were praying for.
And I can’t just move on.
Talks of a storm began. I rolled my eyes. We’d heard it all before, the hype of the media and their desperate grasp for five minutes of fame.
Stock up on water, they said. And essentials.
Again, I thought this was hype until notifications started coming in. School districts closing all across the city, and I had to help my family decide. Would our schools be closed too? Eventually, we decided yes.
I didn’t mind the idea of a long weekend. My husband and I played movies and snacked on our favorite: guacamole and chips while a slight rain started in the background.
“I bet you that’s all we’re going to get,” I said as if to prove that the news had fooled us all again. I almost wanted them to prove me wrong.
I wish that thought had never crossed my mind, because the next day, we woke to amber alert after amber alert: tornados, flash flooding, and warning to take shelter now. And so it continued for the next 4 days.
I slept. I woke up. I stress ate. I walked in circles around the house as the rain pounded mercilessly against our glass windows.
My cats hissed at the rain as if to make it go away. I scooped them up to try and comfort them, but they bit my hand and ran away.
We were all a bit on edge.
My husband checked out pantry and counted water bottles. He’d ride his bike to scope out the damage every time the rain slowed down, but he’d always come right back: dripping wet and with an update that things were going from bad to worse.
We’d dealt with a lot of heavy rain the past, but this simply wouldn’t stop. It collected in the streets. Lakes overflowed, and the pool of water began to make its way up the steps of people’s homes.
Mandatory evacuations were called for across the city.
“We’re okay now,” my husband said. “But if the levee breaks…”
He didn’t have to finish that sentence. I packed my bags and called my family to come.
They weren’t better off in their area. The lake in their backyard had overflowed into the streets, causing their neighborhood to look almost like a lazy river. No regular car could come in and out of their gate, so they rescued me in a school bus.
30+ adults were staying in their home, 3 cats, and a toddler. We ate, talked, played games, and prayed all while keeping a nervous eye toward the window at all times. The news played on in the background, showing the devastation around us.
[Checking for Damage]
As soon as there was a pause in the rain, we went to check on our schools. Water had collected in some of the classrooms, and a few ceiling tiles had crashed to the floor. Water dripped along the wood, but we counted ourselves lucky.
I didn’t know what had happened to my house. I kept my fingers crossed as we drove back to our neighborhood. My heart sank as I noticed the first half of the neighborhood was underwater. The streets were full of water—in some places almost one or two stories high—with cars submerged underneath.
Then, we were only five houses away from mine…
My eyes fell upon my little home, sitting on the corner, safe and dry. The water had stopped just a few feet away, and I whispered a prayer of thanks.
[ #HoustonStrong ]
Military planes flew overhead. Tanks rolled by.
Looting began, and a neighborhood watch was promptly assembled. Old military vets stood guard at the front of my neighborhood with rifles, ready to fire.
I stepped outside and walked toward the water, only a few feet away, where a group had gathered.
“What are you all standing here for?” I asked.
They pointed in the distance, where people in rubber boots and air mattresses worked to enter and collect whatever valuables could be saved from the affected homes. A family of four neared us with clothes and photo albums piled high. I asked them if they were okay.
The father couldn’t meet my eyes. “We lost everything,” he said.
His wife broke into tears.
I didn’t know what to say or what to feel; I still don’t.