This post has been a long time coming. Many have asked me about how Hurricane Harvey had affected me and my family, since our house was flooded the morning of Sunday, August 27th, 2017. I wasn’t ready to share on my blog just yet, as I was still processing everything that has happened to us in the last month or so. After any traumatic event, you go through the range of emotions – shock, disbelief, anger, sadness, and even hope. I shared a lot of what I was going through on my personal Facebook page, in the moment. But I still needed to process it all.
So, here we are, October 1st, and I don’t think now what Harvey took from me, but what it gave me. Humbleness.
My family and I decided to evacuate early on Friday, August 25th. We packed up what we could carry, in case we had to walk for a long distance (my husband is former military, so he was pretty serious about what we took). I packed up three changes of clothes for myself, and for each of the three girls, our important paperwork, and my skincare (of course) into one big suitcase. We packed up water and made sure that our gas tanks were full. I closed every door in the house, thinking that would help with the air pressure in case the hurricane came tearing through. I unplugged all the electronics, and bid my red cherry colored Keurig coffee maker a “see you later.” I made my bed and put all the dirty laundry in their hampers. Chloe and Jenna wrapped up their favorite toys in their little blankets, and Chloe tucked them away upstairs in her bedroom closet. I assured the girls we would be back soon, and that Tiger Baby, Elsa, Pinky Cat and Seahorsy will be okay through the storm. We loaded into my mini van, including my Mom, Dad, and brother, and my husband took his truck. We locked up the doors and pulled away, thinking, hoping, and praying, that our house will still be intact, when we came back. Our neighbors, Travis and Ana, decided to stay, hunkering down, until the hurricane passed. Their house had escaped the Tax Day flood in 2016, and they had enough supplies and water. They told us that they will keep an eye on our house, and let us know.
My husband and I initially wanted to head to Dallas, and after much back and forth about how far we would travel, we decided to go to Huntsville, about 50 miles north of Houston. I told the girls we were going on a road trip, it was finally time to see more of Texas, since moving to the state in April 2016. Traffic was beginning to pile up heading north, so we decided to head northwest to College Station, TX, where Texas A&M was located at. My husband had points he could use towards a hotel stay and were able to stay in a hotel down the street from the University. The girls were excited to be in a hotel room. It was like a “mini vacation”. It was pouring rain on that Saturday, and we stayed in the hotel, watching movies, and going out for pizza. I tried to keep it light and fun, even though, anxiety was running high. The Weather Channel was on consistently, as we watched Harvey hit Corpus Christi and Rockport with such a fierce intensity. We prayed that it will lose intensity. We went to sleep nervous to where it would land next.
Sunday morning is when it all changed. We turned on the TV and learned that the hurricane was dumping heavy rainfall in Houston. Our city was flooding, and it was flooding fast. My husband called our neighbors and asked what was going on in our neighborhood. Ana said that the water from Cypress Creek, which was only a block away from our homes, had already breached, and the water was rising incredibly fast. They were gathering up their dogs and some supplies, and had called for a rescue boat to get them. The water was already too high to try to drive through it, even with the big truck that Travis owned. The water had already rose to the top of our car in our driveway.
At that moment, my heart dropped. Our house was flooded, and there was nothing I could do. This was when the shock hit me. And, I was numb. We watched the Weather Channel the entire day. It continued to rain.
Monday, August 28th, 2017
There was a break in the rain for a few hours. Pictures of how massive the flooding was throughout Houston was unbelievable. Freeways looked like lakes, and the water rose to the top of pedestrian bridges that crossed the freeways. The same freeways I take daily to work Downtown. The thousands of homes, flooded. The people being rescued by boat. It was so much to process. And it was different this time because it was happening to me too. I didn’t know what my house looked like, but I could only imagine. Ana and Travis headed back to their house that day to take video and pictures for their insurance claim. They captured what our house looked like.
Our friends and family began reaching out to us. It was all over the news, and they wanted to know if we were okay. It was weird to inform them that our house was indeed flooded. Their first question, “What do you need?” I honestly, did not know. I didn’t know. I didn’t know what or how I needed anything. My sister-in-law suggested to set up a Venmo account, so folks could send us funds. I decided to do that, but I could not ask anyone to send me money. Because, I still didn’t know WHY I would NEED it. She said, you need money to help you with hotel stays, and food, and clothing for you and the girls. I reluctantly said okay, when I realized that I did have to wash our clothes over and over in the hotel laundry room. We extended our hotel stay until Thursday, as all the roads back into Houston were flooded.
Tuesday, August 29th, 2017
I was still in shock. Friends were sending us funds to the Venmo account and my PayPal account, and I was amazed that so many people wanted to help. And, I still didn’t understand why. My friend, Colella, said to me, “Let people help you.” Let people help me? But, I know how to take care of myself and my family. I figure things out. I’m the boss of my destiny. But, this was BIGGER than me. Her words resonated deep within my spirit. And I heard HIM. God told me, “Let ME help you.” And, I stepped out of my ego, and laid my anxiety and fear at His feet. Yes, Lord. I will.
The kindness and generosity from friends, family, and perfect strangers was overwhelming. I don’t know how I could ever repay them. We found out that our flood insurance did not cover for personal property and contents. That means that anything that is moveable in your home, would not be covered. All of our furniture, electronics, kitchen and dining supplies, clothing, PHOTOS, would not be reimbursed. A friend suggested to start a Target registry, like a wedding registry, so people who wanted to help could purchase for us.
Wednesday, August 30th, 2017
The rain had finally stopped, and the water was beginning to recede. My husband and I decided to travel back into Houston, and try to get to our house. I had left my laptop, external hard drive in my upstairs office, and we wanted to try to save our wedding album. We were married in 2003, pre-digital, so our wedding albums were photographs with negatives. They were in the bookshelf downstairs, and I was hoping that if I could reach it in time, it could be restored. It took us a couple of hours to get back, and what we saw along the way was devastating. Ana and Travis had made it back to their house, but they had to swim and wade across a long stretch of road that was still flooded to get to their house. My husband tried to cross it in his big Dodge Ram, but the water was still too high. My husband looked at me, and said, “We are swimming through it.” I cursed at him pretty hard, but I put on my water shoes and held on to him. We crossed the road, against the current, and I was freaking out the entire time. When we made it to the other side, still frightened but incredibly releived that we made it, I realized that here we were, 18 years together, through so so much, and he is still the one that I want to “wade through waters” with. Our wedding vows rang true … for better or worse, we are in it together.
When we arrived back to our house, it was bad as expected. Again, I’m still in the shock phase of the event, and it was like seeing someone else’s house and not mine. The water line on the bricks in the front were about 6 feet high, well over my head. We had to break into the backdoor, as the wood had swelled and the key would not turn. The damage was extensive. There was still water that filled our living room, which was a drop down from the rest of the house. The power of water is incredible! It had picked up both of our refrigerators, turned over my dresser in my closet upside down, tore all the picture frames off the wall, and picked up the bed and couch. Everything was covered in mud, and grime, and it had the most horrible smell.
I headed upstairs and found that it was left completely untouched. The girls rooms were filled with light and joy. Everything exactly in its place. I went into Chloe’s room and found Jenna’s Tiger Baby, Elsa, Chloe’s Pinky Cat, and Seahorsy, all cozy in the closet. They made it through the storm.
In the days that followed, we had so many people come to help us. I am forever grateful to all the volunteers that spent hours in our home, clearing it out, cutting out drywall, pulling up flooring and carpet, and going through all of our items trying to salvage what could be saved. Those days were hard. I shared the hardest day on my Facebook page. This is what I wrote –
Life after Harvey:
This is what your wet, soggy, moldy, broken possessions mixed with hard wood floor, carpet padding and sewage looks like…all in your front yard.
Today was a very hard day. It was the first day that the girls got to see their house after the flood. Although they were happy to see their rooms exactly how they left them, and found their kitty cat, Figaro, it was still extremely stressful. The most heartbreaking moment: Jenna started crying up in her room, like tears streaming down her face, so I knew something was wrong.
– Jenna, what’s wrong?
– It hurts, Mommy!
– What hurts? Where?
She cries some more.
– What hurts? Show me. Show Mama
– My feelings. My feelings hurt. 💔
It was too stressful to be there, so it was time to head out and distract them.
We headed to Target, so I could start a registry. Their scanner wasn’t working, so I could not start the registry yet, and I suddenly realized that I had not eaten all day. The girls were hungry too, and our normal routine at Target was to get cheese pizzas and cake pops from Starbucks. They were both closed.
I told them that let’s grab what we needed and then we would find pizza somewhere else. We needed an inflatable bed for Adam and I, with sheets, pillows, and a comforter. Trying to keep all three girls from taking off down the aisles, and trying to decide quickly which quilt to get, do I go with basic or something that Adam would like? I looked at the king sized quilt, and knew that I loved my old one best. WHY did I have to make this decision? I should be excited to “redecorate” my house. And that’s where I lost it. All the anxiety, the stress, the fear, the worry, the loss, the trying to be strong, trying to be level headed, trying to be positive, crumbled onto the aisle floor. And I wept like a baby. Chloe, Jenna and Kaylee hugged me – Why are you crying Mama? Why are you on the floor? Mommy, people are looking at you! Mommy, get up!
I hugged whoever was closest, it was Jenna, and it hurt. My feelings HURT.
My eyes puffy, I put the quilt in the cart and headed to checkout.
Driving through our neighborhood, our front yards all look the same. Our feelings Hurt, really bad.
I realized that what I had identified myself with – my belongings, did not define me. Being stripped away of “earthly possesions” was incredibly HUMBLING. I had my family and my life, and I’m grateful. So grateful.
We are waiting to begin the rebuilding process. My family and I are safe in an apartment close to the house, while we wait. The rebuild could take 6 months to a year. I’m taking life day by day.
I also believe that being kind to people is so important. You truly never know what someone is going through. I see each day as an opportunity to share kindness with someone. Whether it’s a simple smile, a warm hello, a sincere compliment, can go a long way.
Thank you to each and every person that prayed for us and reached out to us during this time. I am very humbled and grateful to you. Thank you, Lord, for keeping us safe and showing your love through your people.
Harvey took and gave me an amazing testimony.