“I couldn’t just sit there and watch it on TV anymore. I had to do something.” – anonymous Galvestonian citizen rescuer, who braved the storm in his john boat to pull families out of the water in Dickinson
One of the unintended consequences of being the father of a one week year old infant is that you are awake throughout the night and learning in real-time the devastation of Harvey to your hometown, even though you’re 2000 miles away safely in your bed.
Natural disasters in Galveston County are not new or novel. We grew up with severe weather. What can be said is that this storm was unique for a couple of reasons. First, there are neighborhoods Dickinson that have historically been impervious to previous storms; they “bend but don’t break”. Maybe the streets flood, you lose a shingle or two, or you lose electricity, but water never enters the house. From all accounts, this storm was different. This FB post this AM from Jenni Martin Fairbanks:
I just learned that my childhood home in Dickinson flooded, and I’m bawling. We never flooded when I lived there. I watched it come inches from our front door once when I was in the 6th grade, but we were spared (random rain storm – not even a hurricane) – quite frankly we were spared by Mother Nature many a time. We are no longer the owners of this house, but my family owned it from the time it was built in 1977 until around 2008 or 2009 when my sister and her family moved. I hope whoever owns this house knows what a place of love it was. I’ve been listening to Miranda Lambert’s song “The House That Built Me” lately as I process why it hurts so much to see my hometown flooded. Dickinson made me the woman I am today, and I am proud. The walls of this house witnessed many a tear, much laughter as well as the mundane day to day happenings. My momma took her last breath in this house – unexpectedly. She was my very best friend, and the pain of her loss is deeper than words can describe. Lots of the big things of my life happened in this place. My momma and daddy loved me well on Thornwood Circle. I will forever have a sting in my bones when I see this house and the landmarks of this town. I hope whoever lives here in this house carries on the deep family tradition of love, commitment, and service to make this world a better place. I wish them well in these days of horrendous Hurricane Harvey. (P.s. That open window in this pic was my bedroom). Lynda Amason Pat Orrill Tamberlyn DeAnn Genevieve Foster Meador Shannon McGlothlin – my forever neighbors:)
The second reason Harvey was different was the coverage. FB was dominated by posts on Harvey both from inside and outside the effected area. Somehow, people were able to keep their phones charged and use them to provide those of us connecting to them through social media images and commentary of what they were experiencing firsthand. The mainstream media and networks also featured round the clock coverage of Dickinson. Specifically, watching CNN and especially The Weather Channel (TWC) made Dickinson appear to be the epicenter of storm damage. TWC spent most of Sunday following a reporter first on a flatbed truck and later in a boat as his team cruised up and down 517, Deats, Hwy 3, and Spruce, Lobit, and Maple Drives. On Sunday, I remarked to Kyle Gupton on FB that TWC cameras and reporters kept floating by the home he grew up in and which his mother still resides. Shortly thereafter, Kyle posted this (you can see that he’s watching from the Seattle area because of the “Bothell today note in far left hand corner:
That’s our house on the right.
The effect on those of us watching from outside the range of the storm is that you felt like you were there experiencing the storm firsthand but unable to help. Read this exchange between Rachel Frey and Kyle Gupton:
How is your mom doing? How are you doing? Watching from afar, while not the same as being in the flood waters, is traumatic in its own way. Peace to you?
Kyle Gupton Thanks Rachel. She’s okay as can be. Safe at least but worried about the future. I’m pretty much the same. Watching from afar is definitely traumatic in its own way. I’ve never wanted to be in a disaster zone so much in my life.
Here’s the amazing thing. The whole experience conjures the opening line of Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities: “it was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” As we watched the stunning loss and heartbreak of our community and then the volunteers on the ground rescuing survivors, our classmates mobilized. Some like Rachel Frey, Emily Clock, and Ann Bell Worsley were using FB and their cell phones to guide people to assistance and provide Public Service Announcements (PSA). Others were out in boats saving people. You couldn’t help but feel the teamwork and pride, even 2000 miles away. It’s still going, as I can see Sonja Faul Blinka and Michelle Hathway Martin delivering food to former classmate, Brian Moss and his family. The energy hasn’t dissipated…GATA Gators!
This post will likely be the first of many about events and people surround the “500 year storm” named Harvey. Candidly, there are better people to tell this tale. People who were there. I’m looking for your contributions. Please reach out to me, whether it be with your story or pointing me to the hurt or heroism of someone we mutually know.
Here’s what I’ve sketched out for the upcoming weeks, although not necessarily in this order:
- Cries for Help => people using social media to get assistance for their trapped loved ones
- Bearing Witness => those who provided video and commentary from voices we trust
- The Connectors => those who set about using their phones and FB to organize and help
- The Rescuers => this needs no description
- My Window into the HEB War Room
If you have better ideas, let me hear them. Let me close with this post from former DHS science teacher and coach, Kurt Olsan:
13 hrs ·
Love this town Love the school, Love these coaches, and really Love these kids!