That’s one of the most common sentences I’ve heard lately as a South Houston native. My story is the same. My house flooded. Hurricane Harvey turned many people’s lives upside down, including my own.
I live right on a creek. It was a beautiful wooded lot, filled with raccoons and owls and snakes. We had a large backyard complete with a pool. It was our own private paradise. There was room to run around with the dog or to kick soccer balls over the fence or to tan in the summer sun. The house was an old two-story home, filled with imperfections and character. There was a door frame tracking the family’s life in inches. There was a smiley face drawn into the texture of the wall. There was memory after memory symbolized by a window or a picture.
Torrents of rain began crashing down Saturday night. We moved the cars up to high ground, just to be safe. At 9:00pm, everything seemed fine. Moving the cars was just a precautionary measure. I went to sleep expecting to wake up and go to church the next day. It would be normal. But, life was far from normal the next morning.
12:45a.m. Dad shook me awake.
“Get up. The creek’s in the backyard. We gotta move things up. Wake up Jamie and come down,” Dad’s whispers were urgent.
Pausing my story real fast, Jamie is a German foreign exchange student that we had picked up from the airport only five hours earlier. Welcome to Texas, right?
I catapulted out of bed and ran to Jamie’s room.
“Wake up. We have to move stuff upstairs. I’m sorry,” I frantically told Jamie.
I ran downstairs and flew out to the backyard. Sure thing, the creek was a fourth of the way up the yard. I went back inside and put Jamie in charge of moving pictures upstairs. Meanwhile, I took the first things I saw. There were boxes of childhood art, wooden chairs, vacuums, and computers. I emptied out cabinets, stacking things on counters. The house had never flooded more than three feet, so that was the mark. Things went on top of counters and tables and above the fireplace. I ran outside again. The water was halfway up the pool.
Frantic, I ran to the front yard. The water was over the mailbox. I looked next door and realized I didn’t hear her dog. All lights were off and her car was still in the driveway. My neighbor wasn’t awake. The next thing I knew, I was pounding on her door, willing a light to turn on. After what felt like an eternity, she finally opened the door.
“What’s going on?” she said groggily.
“Carry, the water is coming. Move the dogs upstairs. Save what you can. I have to go. Stay safe!” and then I sprinted back to the house.
Another hour passed, and we were working as smooth as gears in a clock. I was constantly checking the water. Submerged the pool. Up to the deck. The tree. Inches from the door step…
The power died at 2:30 in the morning. We grabbed an extra set of clothes, our phones, chargers, and the dog. We took one last glance around the house and then we left. We walked through cold, chest-deep water to get to the cars up the street. My mom took her SUV and my dad took his truck with Jamie. My dog and I got into my SUV and followed my parents. We drove to the next neighborhood to stay with our friends. The cars sped through the water-covered streets at a whopping five miles an hour. I prayed and prayed for my car not to stall out and, by some miracle, we made it to our temporary home with all three vehicles.
By 7:00 in the morning, the creek had reached historic levels. Dad estimated there was four to five feet of water in the house.
Days passed before we were able to make it back to the house. It took a few more for the street to be low enough to wade across. It was about a week in total before we walked inside for the first time since this “800-year flood.”
The doors stuck together, swollen with humidity. Glass was shattered all over the porch. Inside, everything was destroyed. Water had reached 4.5 feet inside, crushing the 3 foot mark. The rowing machine floated from the living room to the kitchen. Toiletries were found in the kitchen and the bedrooms. The washer was flipped. A mirror fell off the wall. Board games were destroyed. Vinyl records littered the floors. Layers of mud coated the floors.
It was awful. The house I’d grown up in was in shambles. My childhood home was destroyed. I’d lived in that house for almost seventeen years. Ghosts of giggles and tears, hugs and games, and movies and meals haunted me at every turn.
The days that followed were a blur of the same. Toys were thrown in trash bags. Dry wall and insulation was stripped. Salvageable items were carefully dried and placed in boxes. The smell of water and mold gained strength as the small hill of garbage in the yard turned into a mountain. People flowed in and out. Current friends and those from years past siphoned through, bearing hammers, money, food, or hugs.
Soon, the job was done and we were moving into a rent house three doors down from our storm shelter. Bleach was in hot demand as we cleaned and washed. Boxes were slowly emptied and things found a place in our temporary home. We made ourselves a new normal.
Why recount these painful events? We’re one of hundreds of thousands of similar stories. What’s the use in sharing this story when people are just trying to move on?
Have you ever felt the crushing feeling of loneliness? It presses down on your chest, leaving you tired and exhausted. Many of you may not believe it, but that’s been a huge struggle of mine. I’m the nice girl. I’m everyone’s friend. I always have a smile to share. But, all the same, it doesn’t always feel that way. My closest friends go to different schools, limiting our time to texts and the occasional Friday and Sunday.
Harvey taught me that I have incredible friends, despite when it feels like I’m on my own. Not only did they help tear my home apart, they started a fundraiser. They sold shirts, jewelry, clothes, and opened a GoFundMe. Surprising my family and I, they revealed to us that they had raised almost five thousand dollars to go towards our recovery.
I had no idea what my friends had been planning. They loved my family and I unconditionally, doing whatever they could to help.
If you get nothing else out of this post, I hope it is this. During periods of dark, when you think no one is there, I promise you someone is. They may not vocalize it all of the time. They may not raise you five thousand dollars. But, someone is there. Sometimes, you just have to turn around and look. Those near and far are waiting for you. Whether you need to laugh for twenty minutes or hug while you cry, someone is there. You’re never alone.