I sat on the phone with my best friend from childhood, she was alone with her nearly two year old son and seeking counsel. Her voice was strong, but I could hear the tinge of concern in it, while I am a Houston ex-pat, this would be her first ever real hurricane to endure.
Living in a town that lay between Galveston and Houston, her home was guaranteed to endure the hurricane. She asked her neighbor, who now owned his childhood home of 38 years, and his reassurance was that through all the hurricanes their homes had never flooded. Despite reassurances there was still that unnerving sense of the unknown evil that was now growing immense strength somewhere over Port Aransas.
She presented me with her other option of spending her Friday in the unforgiving evacuation traffic to Austin and stay with her mom. I offered the third or fourth option of staying with my grandmother who lived barely an hour north of her or grabbing a 50 dollar special to Orlando and stay with me.
The politics of evacuation are not as simple as to leave. Once you leave your county, you are locked out and homeless until further notice. And the actual action of evacuation is almost twice as dangerous as just enduring the storm. I didn’t want to give an opinion, because I didn’t want to feel responsible, this wasn’t like when we were kids and her question was what to wear on a first date. This was life and death, this was not only the livelihood of my best friend but of her child as well.
She cried that she felt everyone would judge her as a terrible mother if she stayed. In most of our discussions I try to remain lighthearted but at this point I was quite stern, “this isn’t about what kind of mom you are, this is about my best friend and her safety.” I had been through this before, the person on the outside, the helpless one in a storm. I had been in this same state of helplessness when my aunt, cousin and her 12 month old son had been forced to evacuate with all of Houston, TX for Rita. Houston, the fourth largest city in the nation, the entire population that once shared the road through ride shares, busses, and trains were now all crammed in individual cars following the safe evacuation routes. For my cousin the idea of evacuating to freedom had become a 16 hour terrifying death trap. Everyone around her: no gas, no food, people overheating, people dying. I admire their courage and their strength through the entire disaster, despite the fact that their was no other option. I thought now again of my friend on that road, alone with her baby trapped somewhere between Houston and Austin with nowhere to go, and I held my breath.
Thank goodness she didn’t opt to fly considering the great devastation that hit Hobby and Intercontinental. Although I have had several family members who made a successful trek to San Antonio yesterday, I am happy that she was not alone on the roads. As the water began to fill her house she managed to move all electronics to high ground. She lost plumbing but has yet to lose electricity. She owns and is skilled with a gun for the more recent terrifying prospect of looters.
I try to keep my calls back home to a minimum, enough to check in, know they are okay. I know they are flooded with calls, and I don’t want to be a part of the problem that may keep someone in need from being able to get a call out because the phone lines are so oversaturated in the same area.
For now, she could care less if Joel Osteen opened his doors, or the everyday arguments over the semantics of president Trump. She doesn’t find much concern for the University of Tampa professor who considered Hurricane Harvey as instant karma on the ignorant and despicable Texans who voted in Trump (despite the fact that Houston was a solid blue). She is not phased by the fake news over Obama or the opinions the rest of the US has over the city government. Her concerns are keeping her baby fed, keeping her feet dry, and how to makeshift a toilet until further notice.
I am not flooding my Facebook feed with comments on my fear for my family, this does no good and will only serve as a reminder of this helplessness each year in those wretched Facebook memories. I have held my silence out of fear that my 88 year old grandmother, who is too old for the refugee journey and has chosen to stand her ground, alone in her home. I was afraid for my other grandparents who had to make the journey from Bay City to San Antonio yesterday, in hopes they did not find themselves stuck. For each person who made their choices I respect them, I understand them.
I am not concerning myself with the mistakes, those have happened and there is nothing we can do for them at this time. For now we can only count the blessings. I am thankful that our city level government had learned from their mistakes and not forced an evacuation. I’m thankful that this time the rescue teams were on the scene before the hurricane was even in full effect. I am thankful for the Texans and I guess even the Cowboys for their great contributions. I am thankful for Kevin Hart’s call to action. I am thankful for the Texas National Guard risking their lives to save those like my loved ones. I am thankful for the amazing outpour of love and community not only for one another but for the horses, dogs, and other livestock affected as well. I am thankful for those who were able to take a hiatus form the hate and bias and come together for the sake of a love for their fellow man.
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