Houston Flood — One Disaster, Two Surprises

I am not sure how much news the Houston Flood made outside of Texas.  But in case you missed it, let me tell you how it went down. We went to bed on the eve of Memorial Day. Sure, there was thunder and heavy rain, but it had been raining for the better part of the month, so we were not concerned. There was no hurricane on the way, no warning.

When our electricity went out, I thought it was romantic. When the thunder grew in intensity and proximity, my biggest worry was whether or not my kids would sleep through it.

As the night went on I joked that it sounded like our house had been transplanted to the underside of Niagra falls. Patricio and I stayed up until about 2 am watching our quiet street fill with water.

I found the whole situation curious, but as a Chicago gal, who has never experienced a flood before, I was more amused than concerned.   It wasn’t until the following morning, when I woke up to about five thousand text messages, that I realized what had happened that night. Here I am on the doorstep of our home. Below is the view from our house. This was surprise number one.

Houston Flood

Suri and I assess the damage

Flood -- out our window flood n braeswood

The flood waters had only gotten about half way up our lawn. Many of our neighbors were not nearly as lucky.  Like something out of a Spielberg movie, flood waters seeped into their homes through the walls, destroying their floors, walls, furniture, and memories.  Many friends were stranded in their attics, some with small children, until they could be evacuated by boat.

Photo courtesy of Chabad

Photo courtesy of Chabad

Here are some pictures from my friends’ homes:

Friends' HousesCard in flood flood

But the worst part was not the night of the storm. For those whose homes flooded, the worst part came next.  If you have never lived through a flood, like I hadn’t, you wouldn’t know that not only are flood waters dangerous, but so is everything they touched. It’s not just rain water, it’s also sewage and it carries diseases as well as dangerous insects and animals (including snakes and even alligators, yikes!!).  The homes become uninhabitable and most of the furniture, clothing, toys that it touched are not salvageable.  The insurance adjusters and FIMA can put a price tag on a house, but it’s impossible to put a price tag on a home — to measure the value of a family’s life accumulated over years, and their sense of security.

Here is a photo from the home of my dear friends’ mom. She is trying to dry out years and years of sentimental cards:

People lost so many things that you can't put a price on.

People lost so many things that you can’t put a price on.

The second surprise that came out of the Houston flood was a bitter sweet one. We live in the area of town that was hit the hardest. It’s called Meyerland and is full of young families and elderly folks.  While it is a diverse area, it also happens to be the heart of the Houston Jewish community. The pleasant surprise was the incredible grassroots effort that blossomed almost literally overnight.  People from all walks of life, backgrounds and religions have joined forces, organizing primarily via Facebook, to help those in need.

flood heroes Flood Damage

My friends and I were a tiny little part of this effort — we went door to door asking victims if they had laundry that needed to be done. Once we collected a car-full of laundry loads, we would post on Facebook and complete strangers would volunteer to take in other people’s sewage-drained clothing and launder it. Most of the time the washers and the flood victims never even knew each other’s names. For days my phone was blowing up with messages from people volunteering to help. I already loved this neighborhood that we have come to call our home, but now I realized to what extent it’s not just a neighborhood, it is truly a community. I feel so lucky to be a part of it.

flood damage2flood damage

The uphill battle for the thousands of displaced families is just beginning. Most will be able to return to their homes eventually, but not for at least 6 months, maybe more. Some will never get to go home again.

Here is my little idea for how you can help, even from far away. For the rest of this summer, 100% of proceeds from the Blessings and Art for Kids and Babies sections of my Etsy shop will go to benefit the flood victims.   So treat yourself to a new Blessing for the Home and help out those whose homes and lives could really use a blessing.

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