by ISAAC WINTER‘20
While Hurricane Harvey camped out over my hometown of Houston, Texas for four straight days in late August, I was 1,122 miles away here at Lake Forest College, beginning my first week of sophomore year.
I’ve been through my fair share of hurricanes. In 2001, Tropical Storm Allison deposited so much rain that water came up to our front door step. In 2005, the entire city evacuated due to the worry that Hurricane Rita would destroy Houston the same way Katrina devastated New Orleans. Luckily, Rita veered off-course and ended up landing to the east of Houston. In 2008, my family decided to stay in town while Ike barreled through the region. We lost power for a week and saw tree branches litter the streets, but we didn’t sustain any damage to the house.
Harvey was completely different. That first week of school, I cycled through many emotions; I was anxious, nervous, and worried. I felt numb as I went from class to class, walking outside in the nice autumn weather, wondering when it would stop storming in Houston. I felt a sense of guilt that I wasn’t with my family at the time. I may have been physically in Lake Forest, but my mind, heart, and spirit were all back home in Houston. Thankfully, my family did not sustain any flood damage.
But for a majority of the city, that wasn’t the case.
When it was all over, some areas had sustained fifty inches of rain. No part of the city was unscathed: northeast Houston, where my dad works as a doctor in the fifth ward, was drenched; southeast Houston, home to a large Jewish community was flooded; northwest Houston didn’t fare much better. On top of that, my twin brother told me that he heard half a dozen to a dozen tornado warnings while the storm kept pouring. The countless stories I heard from friends and family made me speechless. There were some people who swam through five feet of water in their homes to get onto a rescue boat. Other friends’ houses didn’t flood, but they had to be evacuated because the water wasn’t draining in their neighborhoods. More boats were rescuing families from a neighborhood five minutes away from my house and were dropping them off in a parking lot at a shopping mall I frequented many times over the years. No one knew how long it would take for the water to subside.
After the water finally receded, the rebuilding process slowly began. It was incredibly hard for me to keep my mind on schoolwork as I saw Facebook posts mentioning the need to help move wet furniture, drenched carpet, or sheetrock from homes. People responded in droves. Soon, people were hitching up their own boats to the floodwater, searching for people who needed to be rescued. Food, water, and clothing donations poured into affected areas; emergency shelters were set up for the many people who were displaced from their homes. It was these moments that made me extremely proud during those tumultuous weeks for my hometown.
Although the reparation process is underway, it is still important to maintain awareness about this issue and to continue aid efforts. Katrina Johnson and I have begun tabling for Hurricane Harvey relief in the student center. We will continue to table from October 30th to November 3rd, from 11 a.m.-12 p.m. If you would like to learn more, stop by and pick up a flyer. We are also working with ISO to coordinate efforts for a joint fundraiser to raise funds for Hurricane Harvey victims and Hurricane Maria victims in Puerto Rico.
When the future looked bleak, there were people in the most diverse city in America waiting to lend a hand, regardless if they were a neighbor or a stranger.
After all, we are “Houston Strong.”
Isaac Winter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org