Recently, I was under mandatory evacuation here in the Houston area because of Hurricane Harvey. The thing is, I came to Houston as a Hurricane Katrina evacuee from New Orleans. This all felt very familiar, yet it’s also something that you never get used to. Knowing how bad it can be can even make everything worse. Read about my recent experience in the Washington Post here. It was an honor to be published in the newspaper I grew up reading as a DC native despite the painful subject matter.
Ultimately, my family and I were very lucky both times where many were not. It takes a community to rebuild and it takes time to regain a sense of normal.
I’ve taken a look at some of the comments on the WaPo site, mainly the ones that said I should move and was stupid to stay in a hurricane-prone region and a city developed to flood. I’ve lived in the DC area. I’ve lived outside of Cleveland, OH. I’ve lived in Los Angeles. I’ve lived in New Orleans. I’ve lived abroad in London and Prague. I have friends in all the states, and around the world. I can’t find a safe, perfect place to live. Can you? Every place has its ups and downs, its pros and cons. And no one, NO ONE, can ever anticipate things aptly named “an act of God.” Disasters. Emergencies. Terrorists. Disgruntled employees. Violent husbands. Psychotic mothers. Careless teens. No place is untouched by these things and if they are then I’m sure they face other difficulties.
When your life, your family, your work, are rooted in a location, in a community, it’s not so easy to walk away. There’s value in those places and, more importantly, in those people. With New Orleans, I’d only lived there 1 year, so it was much easier to walk away. I hadn’t rooted yet. But it’s been 12 years that I’ve lived in Houston. Grown to love this place and the people in it. To panic and flee would be an insult. Like not valuing what I have and chasing something elusive. “Safety.” That makes me think of the family who evacuated from my neighborhood to stay with friends in Kingwood, only to get slammed by the storm and rescued off the roof. I could move somewhere “safe” and get run over by a car. Y’all think I’m crazy…right back at ya’.
[That will be the first and last time I ever use the word “ya’ll”]