I decided to visit Houston for the last two weeks of my summer to spend time with my family. My dad says once I begin a full time job, I won’t be able to fly home as much. Also, it would give me a chance to celebrate my first year of grad school and first ever public health career being done.
But as the news reports came in, it quickly became apparent that this will have to wait. We heard about Hurricane Harvey, we didn’t think it would hit us. But last Friday, early morning, I hear the news loudly. My mom and dad are watching it.
“Get dressed we need to go get supplies” my dad tells me.
I nod. This is important. It looks like the storm will be serious, and even if we are able to stay in our house, there will be flooding and we will need to stay inside for a few days. The grocery store is packed and items were quickly going off shelves. Many aisles have a sign that says “Due to Hurricane Harvey, this item is out of stock. Please be patient as we re-stock”. We get all the necessary items: water, canned goods, toilet paper, paper towels, charcoal, candles, lighters, snacks, milk, eggs, bread. And food for my dog.
We also go to the gas station to get gas for our car. The gas station is also packed. When we get home we sort these items and continue to watch the news. On that Friday and Saturday, nothing happened in our area. There were emergency alerts, but no serious rain. We were able to take a walk outside both days!
That all changed Sunday. Sunday it started pouring like no other. Non-stop. There were leaks in two rooms. There was a bird, sitting by himself who looked injured in the rain. I built him a shoebox nest and moved him to a dry area. The water was up to the middle of my thighs. My mom yelled at me to come inside. We continued to watch the news all day. Our neighbors come by a few hours later. Both our next door neighbors are away on vacation so we go and secure their outdoor belongings with their help.
Monday morning we wake up, and we see no grass and no road. Everything is drenched in a foot of water. We get a call from my Dad’s boss saying his house (very close to us) is flooded. Another colleague of my Dad’s says he just had to evacuate. I look at my family. We begin moving all our necessary items upstairs. We place tape on doors and lots of mats to prevent water from coming in. It works.
Monday night, the neighborhood board lets us know that they will be releasing water from the lake so we should be okay. My family is happy. Still, I have a bad feeling it is not over.
But the next morning we wake up, a lot of the water has been gone and the roads are clear. My dad is happy. We stepped outside briefly to let my dog use the bathroom. And my dad notices all of the debris left behind. He grabs a rake and begins cleaning it up. I tell him maybe we should wait until we know the storm is over.
He just shrugs and continues. I grab my dog who has decided to go swimming in the flood and dry her off. When I hear my dad lightly calling me. “Shaz. Shaz. Shaz.”
My dog runs to my dad. I walk slowly. I see blood.
“I stepped on a nail” my dad says limping.
“Oh my god” I hold his arm and grab the rake.
I see my mom inside the house. “GRAB THE FIRST AID KIT!!!” I yell trying not to cry. There was so much blood I thought I would faint.
My dad walks into the house, leaving a trail of blood. My mom gives me Clorox and asks me to clean it up as she bandages up my dad. She lets me know we will be taking Dad to the Emergency Room.
I feel sick. I quickly wear gloves, clean up, and dispose. Dad is losing color, I grab him a Gatorade. I ask him if he has his wallet, he says yes. The rest of had packed our purses and wallets away into bags in case we needed to evacuate. There was no time to get them. We all get in the car and go.
In between, I was chatting with “Prince Player”. I told him about a dream I had. Where it was the first day of school, and I was late to class, so when I saw him I grabbed his hand and said “Hey” and walked away. He said he can see that happening, but if it was him, he wouldn’t have walked away. Oh my.
I’m shocked he hasn’t asked me about how I was doing with the hurricane… he is one of my greatest friends. I shrug. It’s fine. He doesn’t like me being sad.
We arrive at the ER. Surprisingly, it is not packed and they are able to see my dad quickly. The doctor says we all did the right thing. The nail went into his vein and it was good we bandaged him and brought him in so quickly. He gets a few shots and prescribed antibiotics and pain medications.
We search for a pharmacy that is open. Almost everything is closed due to the hurricane, I finally find one. I get there and there is a long line. Once I arrive to the counter, the receptionist tells me it will be an hour. Sigh. My family and I decide to get food. Again, a struggle to find something that was open. We went in circles and finally found a McDonald’s.
As we drive back to the pharmacy, we feel a flat tire… Oh no. At the pharmacy, we get out and see a piece of glass in the tire. YES DEBRIS AGAIN. My mom calls our insurance who says they will take an hour to get there to help us. It was 8. We got out of the house at 5 and are all physically and emotionally drained.
“Fuck it. We’re gonna change this ourselves” my dad says getting out on his injured foot.
“YOU SIT DOWN” my mom says.
My dad disagrees and has me hold a parking spot for space while he and my brother begin to change the tire. It’s difficult. The parking lot is packed and everytime someone tries to park in that spot, I give them a sad look and motion to the damaged tire. We have no way to get home and my dad is standing on one foot. Uber is down saying they want their drivers and passengers to be safe with the Hurricane happening so they will not be running. Otherwise, I would have gotten one for Dad and my mom and brother could have waited for our insurance.
But finally, after 3 good samaritans stopped by and offered us various types of help, 1 hour later- we were done.
We still had minor damages to the car but were able to drive. My mom and I would take it to the shop the next morning we decided. When we all get home, my dad says he needs a drink. We all pour ourselves one and heat up a pizza.
I’m sad. But I look up at out TV screen, and see some individuals who lost everything they had. Our good friend Aaron once told me never to compare my experiences to someone elses, but it’s so hard here. Our house can be repaired. Our car can be repaired. My dad will hopefully heal soon.
Yet, when I close my eyes. I am devestated. I see debris and blood everywhere. The Dean of my school released a great article about how even being in the path of a natural disaster can cause mental effects. And an injury, can add to that. I see it. It is Saturday, and we are all still sad. I have been running errands for my dad everyday and am helping him get back on his feet. It’s not easy. He is still in pain.
And I turned off the news. I can’t hear about it anymore.
I’m thankful for my friends Susan, Steven, and Sam who checked up on me every single day. And still are checking up on me.
“It’s just an after shock” I told Susan when I couldn’t stop crying Wednesday morning.
“Well don’t forget what Dean G said in his article, it may very well be PTSD. And that is okay” she says.
I sighed. Other friends checked up on me just once, and continued to Snapchat me random updates on their life. When they know I am sad. And don’t want to see what they are eating, vacationing, or watching on TV- I want them to listen. And when I heal we can go back to this. It hasn’t even been 1 week since the disaster. They can give me time. Right? I don’t think 1 week is a lot to ask.
Life must go on I guess. I am healing. Today, the Director of Graduate Students at my school who has been helping with my ADHD accommodations wrote to me.
I wanted to check in with you and hoping you and your family are well and safe. Please know that I have been thinking of you. Sending hugs and hope your way. Let me know if you need anything at all”.
This. This is all I needed to hear. I love my Boston family.
You know how in “Part of Me”, Katy Perry says “I just want to throw my phone away. Find out who is there for me”. This is how I always felt in Chicago.
Thank goodness Boston and Houston are different.
Especially Houston. I saw a strength in my city this week that I’ve never seen before.
This isn’t the way I imagined going to start my last year of school, but I’m inspired by my city. And thankful that I have shelter and my family. And I pray for everyone who lost theirs. Please do the same.