Wednesday, September 27, 2017

On Harvey

It's funny. I had said that I would be writing a Harvey retrospective, but it's still too close to home (literally and metaphorically). I can't really "talk" about it yet. I feel self-indulgent saying that, given all of the people I know who lost so much. We didn't lose anything apart from two refrigerator/freezers worth of food. What I can say is that we gained much from the experience. We realized that we have way too much and that we can do with much less. We are downsizing a lot of our junk. When we left our house with the realization that we might be coming home to a loss of the majority of our "stuff," we were, on some small level, at peace with that. That brought home how little that stuff means. Now, I'm not going to lie, my makeup collection and my yarn collection (and my pens!) are more important to me than they should be, but it's easier to say no to my acquisitiveness after Harvey.

One thing that has made everything so personal (apart from the most obvious one of my parents losing their home - something I make a conscious choice not to think about because it hurts so much) is how hard hit the people in my parish were. Many of their homes are directly in the watershed of the Barker Reservoir - beautiful homes along Memorial (if you live in Houston and know what that means). Our pastor said it best when he talked about some of the reverse snobbishness (my phrase - he was more elegant) happening in Houston right now: people not really caring about the neighborhoods I'm speaking of because they are affluent, but (as Father Troy said), when you've lost everything, you've lost everything, whether that's a little or a lot. Over the weekend, we joined members of our church (which, to put it in perspective, has over 5,000 families) in helping those who have lost their homes. We assembled and then delivered lunches and cleaning supplies to one of the neighborhoods around church. It was surreal in a way since just a few weeks earlier we had been mucking out my parents' house and people had been cruising my parents' neighborhood delivering lunches to *us*.

Why were these people only now cleaning out/tearing apart their houses? Their houses had been underwater for over two weeks. My parents' house flooded because of the rain water (and Cypress Creek). These people flooded because the Army Corps of Engineers released water from the Reservoirs. Thus, the water didn't recede when the flood waters did. Imagine for a minute having that nasty water, feet of it, in your house for over two weeks. Once you've smelled that smell in an entire neighborhood, you don't forget it. Of the people we talked to, none had flood insurance. I don't care how much money you have, if you don't have flood insurance on your half-million dollar house, that's going to hurt (N.B., flood insurance costs $450 a year - floods can happen anytime, anywhere, especially in Houston. I feel kind of silly saying this now, given that the program is broken, but I've had flood insurance since 1999 when we bought our first house (this one). Harvey was the first time we've ever come close to flooding. BUY FLOOD INSURANCE.)

Anyway, Houston still isn't Houston. People are still out of their houses. Businesses are still closed and some won't reopen. I'm about to go to the post office, which is operating out of a trailer since the office flooded so badly. It's funny. If you go just a few miles northwest, it seems like no one even notices any of this, but if you had to evacuate in fear, or if (infinitely worse), you lost your home and everything in it, Harvey changed  you. It changed me.

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