Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas gulf coast on Friday, August 25th. At worst, we thought we would be without power in our home in Greater Houston for maybe a day or two.
The thunderstorms started Friday night. It was exciting to watch the rain fall and the hear the wind howl.
Michelle, M, and I were bored of staying in the apartment but safe and dry until I woke up to a loud banging on our apartment door Sunday morning. I rushed to the door to find the neighbor lady frantic and soaked screaming through the rain, “The lake is rising. The bayous are rising. If we don’t get out now, we may not be able to leave!”
I threw on my rain coat to check out the situation. She was right, the water from the nearby canal flowed over its banks and onto the road.
In 10 minutes, we packed a hodgepodge of clothes and medication into whatever bags we could find and threw them in the Jeep: thinking we may not be able to come back home for a couple of days. We drove north to stay with relatives and then sat and waited to go back home.
Then on Sunday night, the lake miles upstream released thousands of gallons of water into the lower rivers overnight overwhelming the communities along the lakes and rivers below: engulfing our town. There were videos of rescuers in boats saving families on our street.
Photo posted by ddog on kingwood.com
But there was no sign of our apartment. I think that was the worst part: knowing that the water had risen but not knowing how much. A few inches? Maybe a foot?
The anxiety grew like a weed in my stomach.
On Thursday, Michelle and I drove alone back to our apartment: our stomachs in knots and tempers running hot. We did not know what to expect. I was afraid of facing the reality of the flood. I convinced myself that if there was water in our apartment, it would only be couple of inches. It would be manageable.
But it was clear when we pulled up to our home that no unit was spared. Michelle had to kick the door in; it had buckled and warped from water exposure. The stench of sewer was unbelievable. The water line on the wall was at my hip. The couch was soaked. Our mattresses water logged. They had been sitting in water and filth for days.
It was surreal. Our furniture had fallen apart. M’s toys and dolls floated throughout the apartment and were laying on the kitchen floor. Photos, computers, cameras, and clothing were all destroyed. Pictures I took of M throughout her little life were backed up to the computer we found wet on the floor. The wedding albums of Michelle and I before she transitioned had warped and fallen apart. The pictures hurt the most.
We were only able to salvage 5 plastic moving boxes from our 1,000 square foot apartment. We got a bit of help from FEMA and accepted clothing donations from community groups and family. Everything else was lost. It was traumatic. Now, we are staying with my Dad closer to Michelle’s work and my larger family.
Through all of this, Michelle has been my rock. She is an incredibly resilient woman. When I was down and crying remembering what we lost, she was the one to remind me that we only lost stuff. We are fortunate that no one we loved got hurt. We are lucky that we only rented the apartment and that we didn’t own the unit. We are blessed that we have a place to live.
But in the weeks that followed the flooding, the question ‘Why us?’ kept floating through my head. I was stuck in frenzy of anger. After all that our family has been through the last few years, why did it flood our home? When I asked Michelle, she simply said, “Because we can handle it.”
It has taken me a few days to understand what she meant. Michelle has a good paying, steady job and we have supportive family to help us. Thousands of other flood victims have neither and will struggle harder and longer than us to recover financially and emotionally.
So I have grieved and rounded the bend of acceptance. M has been a real trooper through the flooding. She understands that the apartment was flooded and our stuff was too dirty to save. With all of the recent toy and clothing donations, she thinks it is Christmas in September.
Last night, when I cuddled with M in her bed to snuggle her to sleep, she turned her head to look in my eyes. It was dark in her room but I could see her face by the light of the street lamps outside. She said, “Mama, I know it makes you sad that your lovie (stuffed animal) Shy Violet was flooded.”
It damn near broke my heart. In the most unexpected moment, she showed true kindness and caring. I am very proud of our little human.
I took a deep breathe, breathing through the urge to cry, and said, “I’m not sad at all because I have you and your Mom. Y’all weren’t flooded and that is all that matters.”
That is all that matters. My ladies and I made it through. We are together: safe and dry.