I turned eleven-years old in 1975, the summer my family moved to Houston, Texas. It wasn’t the easiest time of life to move. Without cellphones or the Internet, I was walking away from the only childhood I ever knew, the only friends I ever had.
I can still remember how stifling the air was, the roar of cicadas so loud that even the blasting air conditioning couldn’t drown them out, the crunch of cockroaches under my feet and my curly hair impossible to control. I was born into a snowy Midwestern town, where seasons dictated the ebb and flow of life. In Houston, school came and went with very little change to the weather; the heat diminished slightly and the sun turned into rain on many occasions. I can still remember the deep rain that would fall, torrential at times. In the seventies, that rain was always short-lived, lasting long enough to take short cover and wait until it passed.
When I started fifth grade and made friends, being in a sultry climate meant a social life outdoors. Together we would skateboard on the never-filled bayou and stay out late due to a vast amount of sunlight. As a teenager, I would meet friends on weekends where we would hang out at a neighborhood park from September through the close of the school year, donning a simple sweater or light jacket in the so-called winter months. In those days, Houston was on the precipice of becoming a big city, but it still clung to its small town roots and wide-open spaces. Houston was, in 1975, a city of mom and pop commerce, little traffic and neighbors who knew everything about one another.
Even though I wasn’t born there, I still claim it as my hometown. It is where I had my first kiss, my first job, my first best friend and my only high school graduation. Houston is where I learned to love Mexican food and humidity. It is the place where I drove my first car and buried my father. Even though I am not a native Houstonian, I will always love it more than any other city because it is where I became who I am today.
I have watched Houston blossom into the fourth largest city in the United States with a sense of civic pride. Houston is home to stellar museums, eclectic neighborhoods and a world-renowned medical center. Millions of people have moved to the city since I left; helping to create a bustling economy. Change and growth are good things, but sometimes they come at a price. Over the past several years, flooding rains has devastated the neighborhoods of my childhood. Carla of the sixties was a devastating hurricane, but Texas went a long time without one. Three years ago, my high school friend and her husband carried their suitcases on their heads through thigh-high water to find a car to take them to their daughter’s graduation in Boston. Most of their neighbors’ homes were damaged, and rebuilt during that storm. Cars were under water. The destruction did not force people away from this wonderful city. Houston rebuilt and once again thrived.
And then Harvey came. Not the quick hard storms of my childhood, or the two in the past few years that wrought havoc on property more than people. Hurricane Harvey brought an intensity that destroyed lives, families, and in many cases, the things that people came to Houston for in the first place – a better life for their families. There has been so much talk about what went wrong, so much criticism for those in charge, that I find difficult to read. Even people outside of my hometown are quick to point fingers at my fellow Texans. I don’t want to listen to how drainage needs to be fixed, debates on climate change or whether evacuation protocols would have altered things. I just want to help. I am donating boxes of clothes, school supplies, diapers, food and money. It is what we all should do. It is how we as collective citizens of this country repair the world. Arguing won’t put food on the table for a family of five; action will.
I know that my hometown is resilient. I know that the heart and soul and patience of every Houstonian have been tried this past week. However, I know that they can’t go it alone. I am far away, but I will never feel displaced from Houston. So many others are not as lucky.
Please join me in rebuilding my Houston after one of the country’s worst natural disasters by contacting these resources:
JJ Watt Foundation https://www.youcaring.com/victimsofhurricaneharvey-915053
American Red Cross https://www.redcross.org/donate/hurricane-harvey?scode=RSG00000E017&utm_campaign=Harvey&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI6Mbl8aSE1gIVTVgNCh3Wdwc8EAAYASAAEgKBhvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds&dclid=CL3YovOkhNYCFZZGNwod9-MPEw
Feeding Texas http://mailchi.mp/ac80c17d9660/harvey-food-banks
Texas Diaper Bank http://www.texasdiaperbank.org
Jewish Federation of Houston https://www.houstonjewish.org