I’m slowly remembering how to sleep again. I had just begun to totally relax after my husband’s stroke when the big Houston flood came along. I don’t think that I have dozed for more than five or six hours for at least a week. Getting back to normal is going to be difficult. We have all changed just a bit, but thankfully I believe that it is for the better.
Yesterday I went on errands for the first time since last Friday. Everyone was so nice and cheerful you would have thought that it was Christmas time. Employees welcomed us to the stores with big smiles and hearty greetings. Strangers were asking each other how they had done in the storm. It was almost like living in a tiny town rather than the fourth largest city in the United States. Most of the people were purchasing items to donate to those who had been affected by the flooding. They had their carts piled high with personal care items, food, cleaning products, water and school supplies. I had a difficult time finding pencils because we all had the same thought that we needed to replace the items that kids will need when schools open once again.
The day was absolutely gorgeous and so we ventured across town to visit with my father-in-law who had been on pins and needles with concern for all of his family. He was surprised and delighted to see us, and we had fun exchanging war stories for a couple of hours. He had done quite well even though the rain had been furious. He lives in what is no doubt the highest neighborhood in the city, so if he had flooded it would have been Armageddon. Still he spoke of a couple of moments when the water in his street was raging like a river, something that he had never before seen. Luckily there were enough breaks in the deluge to allow the rain to drain in between the downpours. Ultimately his home was never threatened.
Our conversations were accompanied by the sound of helicopters flying overhead, an experience that has become sadly commonplace. We’ve seen Blackhawks and Chinooks and every possible variety for several days now. For the most part we ignored the implications of what those choppers meant even though in the back of our minds we prayed for the souls who were onboard. We joked that we each want one along with a landing pad on the roof for Christmas, or at least a flat bottom boat with a set of life jackets. It’s crazy how humor helped us to relax.
Our homeward route took us through the heart of downtown Houston which seemed almost like a ghost town or a set for The Walking Dead. Now and again we saw crews pumping water from underground parking garages, and there were a few hearty souls walking along the mostly deserted streets. I saw a homeless people here and there sunning themselves and wondered what they had done during the storm. I marvel at how resilient they are and don’t think that I would fare nearly as well. I hope that they are not overlooked when relief is being provided for the citizens.
The official word yesterday was that Houston ISD students will not begin school until September 11, a somewhat meaningful date for all of us. It is not certain what other districts will decide to do, but it is clear that both teachers and students will need to ease into the process. Everyone is rattled whether they had damage to their homes or not. It will take some time for a sense of security and normalcy to return. I also believe that school districts will have to think out of the box to fulfill their needs. I’d like to see them hire more counselors and keep classes smaller perhaps by using retired teachers to work a couple of hours a day to ease some of the burdens. Maybe they even need to consider getting waivers to have shorter school days, at least during the first semester when everyone is still so stressed.
Everyone who does not have to repair his/her home wants so desperately to volunteer to help someone else. Offers of aid are flooding into the city. It is nice to realize that we humans are still quite nice in spite of recent indications to the contrary. We have been fed a steady diet of stories of terrorists, white supremacists, and hatefulness between opposing viewpoints for too long of late. It’s nice to hear of people intent on being kind and generous rather than fighting with one another. I sure wish that the attitudes that are apparent all around in Houston right now would infect the rest of the country like a virus. We desperately need to come together with a unified goal. The invective that has become so commonplace needs to go the way of Harvey.
I don’t want to rush things, but it feels as though Houstonians will eventually come out of this disaster even stronger than we presently are, as long as armchair quarterbacks don’t over analyze what has happened here. Just as teenagers don’t like nagging from their parents, we citizens of Houston are rather frayed and really don’t need critiques. We’ve done our best and prefer that people just leave it at that. Later we might analyze levees and drainage systems and routes for evacuations with an eye to improving them. For now we just need to survive.
I love that so many things are settling down in ways that might seem insignificant to some, but are major to me. I saw RVs returning home from wherever they had taken refuge. It was good to see people with enough confidence to come back again. A neighbor mowed his lawn yesterday, a rather mundane act but one that made me smile from ear to ear. We have to do all of these little things to feel good again. Bit by bit, step by step I think we are going to make it, and hopefully we will have learned much to guide us in the future.