Higher Ground

The drive to Katy began just as it had for the past eleven years. To break the monotony, I often took different routes for my daily drive to Yarntopia; so the fact that I wasn’t on the most common of my routes didn’t even seem abnormal. Traffic was flowing, birds were singing, and there was a delightful, cool, humidity-free breeze gracing the water weary residents of metro Houston.

Despite my familiarity with the general area I had rarely ventured into the neighborhoods. I was carefully following the voice commands coming from Google Maps. I was so focused on finding the street where I needed to turn I didn’t even realize where I was because something seemed so different. I looked up ahead and saw some trucks in the road ahead and what seemed to be a white film on the street. The sound of my navigator grabbed my attention again screaming at me to turn left.

The cross traffic cleared and I proceeded across the intersection into another world. Nothing I had seem on television prepared me for this experience. 

What was visible of the streets beneath the mounds of rubble was coated in a white powdery film. House after house laid bare, evicerated and on display for all to see…sheetrock, doors, carpet, padding, the literal guts of the house piled up waiting to be hauled away. Once the shock of that wore off I was then able to see the thing that made my heart stop. Peeking out from under the rubble were deeply personal items…furniture, toys, an upright piano, high chairs and bouncy seats, cribs and beds. All these things, just a few days earlier, had been a part of someone’s home. Their sacred space. Their refuge from a crazy and scary world. Now, it was all rubbish on the side of the road. 

I wanted to turn the car around and run away. I felt my chest tighten and I was having a hard time breathing. Was it the mold, the dust, or sheer overwhelming panic? I didn’t care I just wanted to get out. The suffering is too much. I’m not strong enough for this. We all try to imagine how we would react in a crisis. I just found out and I’m not proud. A panic attack is not attractive and is certainly not helpful to the people who really have a reason to panic. 

It’s impossible to see house numbers and because of the debris. I didn’t see cars in front of the houses so I wasn’t sure which house I was looking for. I was still in a state of near confusion. Then I saw a familiar face and they recognized me. I parked and got out. I didn’t think I was going to be of any help. Everyone there knew something was wrong. I was in a daze and couldn’t communicate. Finally when I saw my friend who we were all there to help come down the stairs I couldn’t help it. I just started crying. She wrapped her arms around me and said, “It’s OK. Everyone is is safe.” 

Great. Here I was there to help her and she ends up comforting me. What a pathetic weakling I am. In someone’s time of need I break down. I felt like that stereotypical character in a movie who just dissolves into an emotional mess and everyone around them has to pick up and carry their load as well. Have you ever noticed that often those characters are women or over weight men? Well, here I am an over weight woman living up to my worst nightmare about myself. I am indeed the weakest link.

Once that inner voice got done with the pity party the other portion of my brain took over. I was there. For me and my social and performance anxieties, this is an accomplishment all on its own. I pushed through instead of staying on the couch. So, I am not the strongest or most physically capable person in the world, I’m here and I’ll do what I can. So I crawled through a couple of 2×4 studs and started moving small items out of what I’m guessing was a closet. With each small thing that I moved I felt a little better.

After filling all the vehicles with the kinds of things that have value to my friend and couldn’t just be shoved in a U-Haul van, we traveled to her new home and unloaded. And then we left. We could go back to our homes all relatively unaffected by Harvey. Back to streets lined with homes intact rather than the skeletal remains of a life that is no more. Because, one can rebuild, but life is never the same after this kind of loss. This is a kind of death just as real as any other.

So what is my take away from this experience? You know I always have some kind of greater lesson in the midst of everything.

  • God is present in all situations. We will never understand the whys, it is our job to listen and trust.
  • The emotional anticipation of how to face a difficult situation is often worse than the situation itself. When urged to help…help. After the fact it is all worth the pain.
  • Let yourself receive comfort.
  • If at all possible…move to higher ground.


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