All weekend I've been thinking about where we were a year ago. Perhaps you remember Ike. It's been on my mind because I've also been reading "Isaac's Storm" about the 1900 Galveston hurricane that killed so many thousands and practically destroyed the island.
Many of you may also remember a couple of gals called Katrina and Rita. Some of you may have made a 15-hour drive to San Antonio or other places like the boys and I did for Rita. The only reason we evacuated for that one was because a friend of mine from out of state had never been through a hurricane before and was petrified and had no where to go, so we left town to stay with relatives of mine. That one fortunately turned out to be much ado about nothing for our neighborhood, but unfortunately added insult to injury for folks east. This isn't about those storms. Much has been written about them, and continues to be.
This is about the storm that got lost in the economic meltdown.
I'd been through a few hurricanes in the past: Allen in 1980, Alicia in 1982, one in NYC in the mid-80's (I believe) whose name escapes me at the moment. For some reason, perhaps it was "hurricane desensitivity" last year (or the fact that we had nowhere to go with two dogs this time), we didn't plan to go anywhere. My mom was out of town and safe, my brother was going to stay in town, so we did too. We made preparations. We were fine.
I was awakened at 1:17 AM when the power went out. It came back on a minute later, then went out a couple more times and the transformer finally blew and we stayed in darkness. No big deal, until the winds started picking up about 3 AM. I heard periodic pops --- the sound of trees cracking and falling on power lines, other transformers blowing, and so on. The house was getting warm, the dogs were freaking out, I started moving the boys around trying to find the best place to protect them from what I feared would be flying glass if it started breaking.
Let me just say that I have never been so scared. What had I done? I must have been the worst mother in the world putting my children in harms way like that. My bravado of the night before evaporated like raindrops on a car roof in mid-August in Houston. Pssssst.
The trees were horizontal outside, the patio furniture was rearranging itself in the back yard, the roof sounded like it would take flight at any moment, the house was becoming steamy, the dogs were shivering in my lap. My middle son and I sat on the couch in the living room trying to calm the dogs and ourselves. I tried not to wet myself in the process! The whole "being brave" thing sucks, may I say.
I prayed the boys and I would make it through okay. Obviously, we did.
The next morning found us outside--in the cool air--along with our neighbors. Without saying anything, we all began to clear debris off the street, out of the storm drains, out of the yards of the elderly couple next door. We took silent inventory of each other, and after a while, began to compare notes on how we all made it through the night, nervously laughing at our good fortune. The next two weeks without power were tolerable because we were okay.
In a way, the loss of power was a good thing. No television to blare at us all the time with bad news and skewed perspectives. We got out in the yards because it was cool for a few days and we played ball with our kids. We sat in chairs on the porch and talked to our neighbors. We looked for ice for the elderly couple and kept a close eye on them because they were more vulnerable. We shared cold drinks given to us by friends with generators. We talked about things that really mattered. We remembered what it was like living in a world without the 24/7 bombardment, and we appreciated it ... for a few days.
It was an odd blessing and respite, but we're back to the grind.
All of this has me trying to come to closure. I'm curious. My son and I will drive to Galveston shortly. I have a bit of history with Galveston since I spent two summers there doing summer stock at the Lone Star Outdoor Musicals. I want to see how the recovery is coming along. I want to believe and see for myself that the same spirit of recovery still lingers from last year's storm. I want to believe that we can pull together as a community in difficult times and make it better. I want to believe that this is possible in all aspects of our lives as citizens of this country.
I hope I'm not wrong.
... so here's the update ...
My son and I spent the day visiting Galveston. We visited the Bishop's Palace and heard the stories about the storm of 1900, and 2008. We drove the streets of the historic district and were awed by the architecture that has survived over the years and the storms. We took the Boliver Ferry and were humbled by what no longer exists on the peninsula. We visited places I frequented many years ago that are in such a sad state of disrepair. I shed some tears at what used to be, but also at the indomitable human spirit that comes back again and again.
The Galveston I saw today is not the Galveston I knew, or the Galveston that will be again. Despite the nvironment--political or otherwise, people endure.
That gives me hope, but I'll still shed some more tears before I go to sleep tonight.