HARVEY Survivors: Take Inventory, I Did, Because I can Relate


 

What do people, families, individuals, businesses, do in the aftermath of a natural disaster? I would love to hope that the first thing is to ensure your safety-the most important people and/or pets in your life.  People before things or possessions. Next, when the storm becomes manageable, and the dangerous weather conditions have subsided, thank your Higher Power for sparing your life. It could have been worse, much worse. Any one of us could have been among the casualties, since there are always those who are fallen as a result of natural disasters

Hurricane Harvey  devastated  Houston, Texas , the 4th largest city in the U.S., and impacted surrounding areas. What next? Take inventory, after you ensure your family’s safety. Whether a temporary shelter or still in your home, take inventory. I don’t mean itemize your losses, but instead count your blessings. Try to identify those irreplaceable possessions-first of which is life. You have a heartbeat, and that is good. We live to fight another day! We, you, are survivors, and all  is not completely lost.

I can relate to being a survivor, though a technically speaking, a ‘victim’ of a natural disaster. I survived Hurricane Sandy. My home was flooded, and possessions lost, thrown out and life as I knew it, was no more. But, I was alive. The night before Sandy hit the NYC area, I had just returned from burying my children’s father. The very next day, it hit us and I hadn’t even unpacked.

The year before Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene blew into town, and I left my home on the beach as suggested by city officials. I took my next door neighbor along and  we went to an evacuation shelter. When we returned to our homes two days later- Nothing-everything  was intact and completely dry.

This time, with warnings of Sandy, I was skeptical about any expected or potential damage. I wasn’t ready for what was to come. Outside, I thought that it started raining a little. My initial awareness of the storm was when my tenants’ children began to yell in awe or excitement. I wasn’t sure which, and was curious to find out  what got them so excited. On the computer on my first floor,  as I moved towards the sounds, I noticed that there was a small puddle by the door. Outside, water had risen about maybe 2-3 inches against the glass storm door[no pun intended].

I still wanted to know what had excited those boys. I opened the door and just a little water came inside. Quickly, I closed it back and headed towards the front of my house. Didn’t make it into the front before water began rising quickly.   It was late October, and fortunately I had a pair of boots within reach. I went back to my computer, sure that it wouldn’t get much worse…. until the power went out. I knew then that this was serious.

So, now in darkness, I bravely ventured outside again, because being on the first floor, water would hit me first. I don’t swim, and was afraid of being drowned and being alone in the dark. Now outside, the water still rising, I waded through to the front of my house and climbed up the first step, then the second, and so forth. Each time the water kept rising higher.  I was thoroughly terrified.

Slowly, I saw my flowers, which were my pride and joy and my lawn lights began to disappear under the water. Then, car alarms began to sound everywhere, as they were also disappearing under the water. My fence began to disappear, and all I could think of was that I didn’t leave when I had the chance. A friend had visited me to welcome me back and cautioned me to leave. I refused. Filled with regret.

I was now stuck in my home, and away from all civilization. My cell phone was going dead, and then no signal. I spoke to my mother the night before, and she cautioned me to seek higher ground, since I live on a peninsula, between the ocean and bay. They met. I tried to walk out of my yard to enter the sidewalk, but the water was too high still. So, I waited it out, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t call for help, couldn’t call my mother to check on her. Was she safe, or did she leave the area? I didn’t know.

After the waters began to subside, which was as fast as it rose, but not enough. I tried to escape my block but as I got closer to the corner intersection , the water was still too high to traverse. I tried going in the opposite direction. To no avail-same thing.

I forgot that I had left my stove on and thought that water and gas were a volatile combination. Since I can’t swim, the water was that high, I paid my tenants sons to go into my house and turn it off. They dive in, and entered the house. When they returned, they told me that my bed was floating, my freezer was turned on its side and the place was a mess. I took their words for it. A large part of me thinks that much of the damage occurred when they opened the door and let the water enter the place head on. A total of 3 1/2 feet of water entered my home, and after the storm water did subside, there was still at least 6 inches left. My garage really suffered, and the kids were right. The place was a mess. But, I survived.

So, I ended up going back inside. Luckily my bed  had floated and I had a leather office chair still standing. There I sat, and napped until daybreak. Utterly exhausted and stressed. My feet propped on the bed, sitting in the chair and covered with a dry blanket. So, so scared. I found one candle, and  I saw stuff floating in the remaining water on the floor. More scared, because bugs, insects and the like were not my friends. Go figure, since I love planting and growing outdoor greenery.

The next day, I went out and walked about ten blocks to reach my mother’s house, and in her co-op, the halls and lobby were dark as hell-during the day. But, I had to see her. I’m an only child and she was the closest person to me in New York or anywhere else. I braved the dark stairway up to her floor and knocked on her door. No answer…..

To be continued, because I have a story to tell.  I can relate to Harvey, because of Sandy…. You are not alone!

 

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