Last week, my husband and I visited Texas for a friend’s wedding. After enjoying ourselves immensely in the festivities, we traveled to Houston to visit with family. I wanted very much to volunteer in some way in the Harvey cleanup while there and my husband’s cousin hooked us up with a local church/disaster relief organization. (They, luckily, had no damage in their neighborhood.)
When we first met Teri at Crossbridge Disaster Relief Center, her bright smile welcomed us. I could tell she was full of passion for this cause. As she spoke to us about her many encounters during and after the hurricane, I felt my own passion rising to help. She gave us directions to a neighborhood that was hard hit and asked us to deliver a broom to a man who had lost everything. He’d even been fired from his job because he’d been on the phone with FEMA while at work. She’d given him other things, and will continue to offer other help, but, RIGHT NOW, he really needed a broom to simply sweep out the debris.
It seemed too simple, but we agreed.
Keep in mind that Houston is HUGE and the city itself is in the middle, but everything surrounding it is often referred to as “Houston” as well. However, the multitude of little communities surrounding it all have names and a distinction of their own. These neighborhoods are best described as small “cul-de-sac” type areas, with streets that wind around and intersect – you can easily get lost in this small development. And, yet, soon, you wind your way back out and are astonished that you made it. The houses are set very close together and despite it being set back just a bit from the main road, you sense that you’re in a completely different section of town.
The one we were to visit is called Bear Creek. When we arrived in his neighborhood early the next morning, we saw no one. When we pulled onto the particular street that we’ve been given for Bob’s home, we felt as if we were transported to a ghost town. Houses were boarded up and no one was around. Eerie. As we made our way down the street, we noticed you could see completely through some homes. They’d been gutted.
We parked and made our way to Bob’s house. He wasn’t home and his door was locked. It seemed odd because, well, there was nothing in his home. Nothing to keep anyone away from or to keep from stealing. His door didn’t even really close properly, but it was locked. My husband tried to push it open, but I stopped him.
“But it’s really not locked,” he said. “I don’t want to leave the broom outside.”
“The man still has the shell,” I said. “It’s not ours to go into.”
Despite the home being completely vacant, the walls still stood. This was still a man’s home. It was still beautiful despite the destruction and it was still his to maintain. It was not ours to intrude upon. He’d had enough heartbreak and intrusion on his life. We left the broom and returned to our car.
As we traversed the neighborhood we realized something else: one street would have destroyed homes, with no one around and other streets would not have a single notable item of damage. People were going about their lives as if nothing happened only one block away from Bob’s home. How can they do that? I wondered. What guilt they must feel! And Teri says they do – many suffer from guilt and PTSD. It’s not all about the destruction the water left on their homes, but also the heartache it left in their hearts.
I could tell you much more about Bob and about Harvey’s destruction. I will, I hope, soon. I’m working with Teri to tell their story (again, I hope).
As we drove away, I cried. I could not do enough. We went to Home Depot and bought some supplies we knew Teri needed and left them at her church. It was not enough, but it was something. Now, back in PA, all I can do is write this down. All I can do is help to educate others about what it is really like. A lot of these folks are STILL without – without homes, jobs, lives. It will take MONTHS, maybe YEARS to recoup. Some, like Bob, may suffer endless years of depression due to this disaster. It doesn’t end when the waters recede.
I leave here now a few pictures. They do not describe to you the feeling of desolation, heartbreak and utter hopelessness that I felt when I saw them. I took only a few. It’s not for us to gawk and “looky loo”, but I wanted to show my readers that there is still MUCH work to be done.
If you’d like to help, let me know. I can give you phone numbers to call. It’s far from over and I’ll be helping as long as I can. I hope you will consider helping too in whatever way you can.