Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Hurricane Ike tore into South Texas with larger-than-life size and tidal surge last Saturday morning. I lived most of my life in South East Texas and the landscapes that were riped apart have deeply rooted memories. Most of my friends and all of my family live there. The reporters have more than covered the details, but this storm and that place are more than just statistics.
It was an unusual storm and those of us that know the Gulf Coast, don't remember one like this. It was massively wide at over 900 miles, the eye was enormous and though it was "only" a Cat 2, it surged like a 4. The powerful force from Africa that drove the winds and rain didn't just stop at Texas. Sunday night I felt the winds on my skin moved by that same energy that has killed so many and destroyed so much. Life was extinguished from Cuba to the mid-western United states. Hurricanes aren't just a coastal threat, though they are hit the hardest. Our friend said, "I live in St. Louis and I've been hit by 2 hurricanes this year!"
One of the hardest hit was Bolivar. No, a barrier island protecting a shoreline is not a good place for a permanent residence and people should not have stayed. That doesn't take away from the fact that there is real suffering, real loss, and a lot of people still in a state of shock. There is no excuse for them to have stayed, but so many of the hurricane warnings are false alarms for that area. Projecting their path is not a science (though they like to think it is). Many of the people that live there have lived in that area most of their lives and have never seen a category 2 storm project this amount of change. Normally the wind blows, the water comes up some, you loose a few trees, no power for a few days and maybe loose the stuff under your house. Things are different now, the weather is more extreme and there are so many more people with their buildings. Each storm is so different and this one hit them head on.
Until hurricane Ike, I didn't realize that my loved ones were in a straight vertical line in relation to each other. That became clear to me while watching the final projected path, they all lived on that line. First my best friend, then my brother Jared and his family, a little further north my parents, grandparents and an aunt, continuing North to East Texas my other brother, his family and my other Aunt. I didn't loose anyone and that has been the greatest sense of relief. I tried not to imagine loosing everyone I love the most, but it was very hard to get that image out of my mind. I know worry is an unhealthy emotion to hold on to, but I found it impossible to let go the day before the storm hit. That was the day I had to go pick up milk and it was good to get out of the house. A beautiful little brown fox trotting at a medium speed came out of the corn field on one side of the road. As it was making it's way to the corn field on the other side, it turned it's head and looked straight at me for 2-3 seconds moving it's head while going by so as not to loose eye contact. Instantly I felt better, though I'm not sure why. The better feeling didn't last long though as I sunk back into worry only a short time later. When I closed my eyes Friday night trying to sleep, I thought about all my friends and family staying up bracing for the worst and I thought about the little fox that surprised me.
One of my brothers is a fireman and was on duty at the time. He worked 4 days straight. Firemen are so underpaid. His home made it with little damage. My mother and aunt are staying with my grandparents and my father decided to ride it out at their house. My parents live on a river that does flood when there is a tremendous amount of rain north of them, but with the speed of the hurricane, no one expected the river to flood like it can with a tropical depression. The surge pushed water in from the opposite direction, the South, much further North than the mouth of the river. I finally was able to speak to my father yesterday and it sounds like riding out the storm in a house 12 feet in the air was a frightening experience. There is only one road into their neighborhood and it may be a few more days before anyone can get to him. There is no water, power or phone service. Since there are only 100 homes in their neighborhood and they are at the end of the line, it will probably be 4-6 weeks before it's restored. We hope the water will have gone down enough tomorrow for a cousin with a truck to get in to bring him supplies. My father's truck was ruined during the surge. At my grandparents house, they are low on gas for the generator, but have gas to cook with. It is very difficult to get in touch with anyone on the phone because circuits are busy or the calls just aren't going through.
Until this morning, I watched the news too much and am saturated with the horrible images. One website displays the four major Houston TV stations simultaneously. I have been hoping to catch a glimpse of my parents home, my fireman brother or anything recognizable. Unfortunately many of the images were of places I recognized.
Here are some links related to Bolivar, one of the hardest hit areas:
I took pictures from these and other websites to make a personal Ike album of the photos that moved me the most. If you would like the password, please email me using the subscription address above or my personal email address. http://s114.photobucket.com/albums/n258/quntmphscs/Hurrican%20IKE/
A friend's teenager son has several friends missing that were on Bolivar at the time. There were 18 of them that thought they would ride the storm out together. At some point they decided to try to get to safety and tied themselves to each other in groups of 2 and 3. Five of them haven't been seen since. This is only one of thousands of sad stories.
Many of the older neighborhoods along the Texas coast and waterways, like the ones that were hit, have a certain casual uniqueness about them. Like New Orleans, it would be very hard to recreate them somewhere else. Something about the landscape lends itself to the atmosphere that many people created there. These places are Blues, Zydeco, and Rock and Roll; Cameros, motorcycles and pickup trucks; BBQ, beer and margaritas; mowing the grass in your bathing suit, watching boats go by, tie dyes, flip flops and big dogs. I hope the survivors can find somewhere else to build that will keep them from getting too homesick. For many, this place will always hold their heart.
A week before the storm hit, I was anxious and out of sorts. I put it off as either being absorbed by a personal issue that I have no control over or maybe it was winter setting in. My distraction and unhealthy anxiety increased a little each day. When the meteorologist projected Houston and the path made a straight line through those that are my heart, those unshakable feelings were cemented. Deep down, I didn't think they would die in the storm, it wasn't going to be good though. One afternoon last week as I was washing dishes, Jeffrey came in from working and tried to cheer me a little, "would you like me to put in a CD for you?" "Yes how about the Beatles". The song "Let it Be" played and though I've heard that song a hundred times, I don't think I ever paid attention to the words. Worry is not only unhealthy, but it blocks solutions. When I think of "let it be", it reminds me to put the worry down. It became my mantra that week:
When I find myself in times of trouble, mother Mary comes to me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be.
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.
And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree,
there will be an answer, let it be.
For though they may be parted there is still a chance that they will see,
there will be an answer. let it be.
Let it be, let it be, .....
And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light, that shines on me,
shine until tomorrow, let it be.
I wake up to the sound of music, mother Mary comes to me,
there will be no sorrow, let it be.
Let it be, let it be, .....