11 Years Ago
My family and I had just purchased the largest home we’d ever lived in during June of 2005, some 5,250 total square feet for the four of us. Complete with inground pool, a pool house, and a couple of other little buildings as well as one for the hot tub, etc., the backyard had an eight foot high ‘double’ privacy fence, the front yard also enclosed by more 8’ foot wire fencing perfect for our German Shepard and Golden Lab. A dozen beautiful oak trees filled the front yard with three more in the back and several tall pines. The house is on a corner and our next door neighbor was an undeveloped wooded lot filled with more trees.
Then about two months later Hurricane Rita’s eye passed right over us.
The double wooden fences became boardwalks, three of the beautiful front yard oaks became barricades blocking the street in front of the house – part of the top of a tall tall pine filled the deep end of the pool, sections of the front yard fencing was decimated into wire spaghetti entangled with the branches of the oaks, there was no electricity or cable TV and recall the Houston Astros appeared successfully in the playoffs that year and into the World Series and we couldn’t see it.
But overall we fared better than many of the neighbors, one of which had an oak tree in what used to be their ‘living room’.
We had money – we had taken several hundred dollars in cash out of the bank for this storm emergency, but there was nothing to be bought even if we’d had fistfuls of solid gold – no gasoline, no grocery stores, and no restaurants. Of course we were prepared beforehand as any lifelong coastal resident was with bottled water and staples.
My late wife (God bless her soul) cooked full meals on the propane grill, we owned a generator already and we picked the game room of our home to ‘set up camp’ with a little 110v window air conditioner. We had the icebox (old persons term for refrigerator) and a couple of lamps for light. We could watch DVD’s on our TV for entertainment and we played a lot of dominoes on the patio.
The radio station that employed me had suffered a devastating blow to the transmitting tower which was blown over, so even though I was getting paid – there wasn’t really a place to go to work. We spent the days picking up, sawing logs, splitting wood with an axe and waiting for the insurance adjuster to arrive.
I really discovered that the family that works together laughs together and gets even closer than they already were and of all the memories I have of being married, a daddy and husband – ‘hurricane days’ are actually some of the best.
Within a few days word came from my brother in law in Baytown that their town had escaped most of the fury of the storm and Wal-Mart, Lowes, Home Depot and others were open for business there. We siphoned gasoline from another family members pickup truck (they had evacuated) and went to Baytown to Civilization, a washateria… a new chainsaw from Home Depot, a much larger generator and other necessary supplies and more groceries.
We felt like pioneers, we struggled and survived and rebuilt. We picked up blue tarps and a few cases of water the National Guard was distributing, after the first few days we often lined up in the evening with our neighbors for a hot dog from the Salvation Army trailer, it was ‘eating out’ for us. All my life I put change in the SA buckets at Christmas time… since then I’ve put in more folding money.
No, there’s nothing special or extraordinary about my story – a 100,000 others in this area can relate and tell pretty much the same tale. Many had it much much rougher.
In about 21 days we got electricity again – the central air again was cooling the entire house because as you know it gets really dang hot after a hurricane passes by. I remember laying on the bed in cool dry central air surrounded by my family and thinking I was a millionaire. I still live there but alone now, with my memories of a thousand things and of Hurricane Rita.
11 Years Ago.