Hurricane Harvey: Sorrow & Joy

As I’ve mentioned a time or two, I’m a Texan, born and bred on the Gulf Coast. In Corpus Christi, to be specific. A huge hunk of my heart is still there, tied to both the place and the people (all my immediate family, and many treasured friends and their families).

As those of you following the weather can imagine, the latter half of this week has been a surreal, tempestuous time. Harvey, a weather formation that began as a mere tropical storm (life-long Gulf Coasters tend to shrug at these) morphed into a monster storm almost overnight. Almost out of nowhere, a category 3 hurricane was barreling down–predicted to make landfall–on almost everything dearest to me.

Thousands of miles away in South America, I was obviously well out of danger. But it was sickening being so far away. I desperately wanted to be there to help my family prepare and evacuate–buy water and generators, board up windows, gather precious photos and important documents, offer a positive word, a hug, a hand on the shoulder and a prayer.

This isn’t the first hurricane I’ve seen aimed at my area. But as a glance at the news will tell you, Harvey isn’t your average storm. When my father was young, his house was literally leveled by Hurricane Celia (of a similar category/mph strength as Hurricane Harvey). Only the foundation and a refrigerator were left standing. This initial loss is traumatizing enough. But I know from watching my grandmother through subsequent hurricanes and evacuations that this kind of devastation scars you for life. It was a tragedy she never forgot, nor entirely shook off.

As Hurricane Harvey crept closer to my home, my Thursday afternoon through Saturday morning unspooled with horrifying slowness. Overflowing with prayers and half-suppressed anxiety, I disciplined myself to check the news only every few hours.  Half of my family (my mother and one brother [and his horse]) evacuated to our ranch in the Hill Country; half stayed (my father and other brother), pinned by factors like work and timing. In a bizarre twist of fate, I–3,150 miles away–wound up being the liaison between the two parties. My ranch-based family had phone access but no internet, while those in Corpus had wifi but no phone services. In Suriname, I had both. And I am so infinitely, passionately grateful for modern technology, because it meant I could keep both halves of my family connected, even when they couldn’t connect with each other.

In the (still-ongoing) aftermath of Harvey’s landfall, my feelings are running riot. I’m inexpressibly grateful and deeply, deeply humbled that every member of my family is safe, our house unscathed. (Power out, a few tree branches down, and slight damage to the fence doesn’t count!) We did nothing to deserve being spared, nothing meriting missing the eye of the storm as Harvey steered barely north of us. We were simply blessed. In so many ways, I’m experiencing joy in its purest form.

But of course, there’s a dark underbelly to my relief. I am heartsick for those less fortunate. It’s haunting, thinking of all those places I’ve known and loved being raked by such destruction. I’ve surfed at St. Joe’s island, Harvey’s first landing point. I’ve ambled about  Rockport, only a 45-ish minute drive from Corpus. They have a lovely coastline, charming restaurants, a vibrant artistic community, a boutique winery. The idea of it shredded and submerged is heart-breaking. I have a million memories of poking around Port Aransas, ducking into dock-side restaurants and surf shops, visiting my grandmother. The house my father inherited from her still stands there… at least it did as of Thursday. At the moment, we’ve no clue how it fared, as Port A is so damaged that, as of yesterday, no one was being allowed in or out.

Far worse, I’m now seeing on my Facebook feed friends and acquaintances who’ve returned to find their home destroyed, the lives they’ve built crumpled like so much debris. Human life is priority  no.1, of course. But stuff is never just stuff. It’s full of memories and resonance and hard work and significance and that ephemeral but invaluable sense of home. And my friends in Houston and the surrounding areas are being deluged, some already experiencing terrible flooding and helpless to prevent it. Because of course, Harvey isn’t done. If the predictions prove true, he’ll hold sway for another few days, dumping life-threatening quantities of rain on the state I love. Already, the fatalities are beginning to mount.

In moments like this, it’s hard to know what to say/write. Everything feels cliched, insufficient. It feels like the worst kind of ingratitude not to celebrate my family’s escape. But it feels heartless to revel in that victory when others are suffering so greatly. There is nothing I can offer them but words of condolence, prayers, an embrace, material help where possible. Yet, even so, these wounds will take years to fade.

But if any state, any people, have resiliency, it’s Texas and Texans. We’ll weather this storm as we have every other and we’ll partner together in doing so. And if God promises to turn all things to good, then I have faith He’ll do so here, too, no matter how bleak things appear at the moment. And my prayers for safety and hope will continue to go out.

Well wishes for those who’ve suffered losses? Requests for prayers or support? Please post below.

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Gallery photo credits go to NASA, ABC News, Wunderground, NBC Dallas Ft. Worth, KXAN, Weather.com, and The Houston Chronicle. 

FEATURED IMAGE PROPERTY OF ABC News.

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3 thoughts on “Hurricane Harvey: Sorrow & Joy

  1. In an echo of your feelings at your family being spared, I feel vaguely uncomfortable to have a home to return to while so many suffer. How does this happen? GOD knows. I’m not supposed to. I’m grateful, and energized. I’m ready to dig in and help dig out others less fortunate. Many Corpus Christi churches are already doing just that. Mine included. This is where my attention belongs. Thank you, Lauren, for keeping your family connected during this monster storm. You were exactly where you were intentioned to be. 😇

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