The headlines are scary and scenes of folks scrambling to keep their heads above water will always pull at our heart strings.
Recent heavy rains have put Houstonians at peril yet again. How many times will this happen before someone actually does something? Citizens lose property, sometimes their lives yet the powers that be in the 4th largest city don’t seem to care. Were it ancient Rome I would half expect to see someone playing a fiddle but it is not ancient Rome. It is a city of more than 5,000,000 people.
Houston was my home for better or worse for nearly three decades. Try as I might I never succeeded but I did learn many lessons which have served me well in the years since I returned to the home of my birth.
I remember floods which created havoc and destruction. I remember city officials promising to do something about it. I knew their words were idle chatter because the one thing which rules Houston is money. Nothing else matters – and the biggest perps are the developers who have the ears of the code inspectors and the brass to get their way.
A drive down Westheimer – inside the 610 Loop is evidence – concrete meets concrete – building on top of building – and no place for the rain to go when it rains and it does rain.
Forty years ago it rained, it flooded and the city came to a stand still. I took the bus home and recall the bus driver was cool and calm and stated everyone would be ok. Water reached the bottom step of the bus as we carefully drove away from downtown. The driver stated no one need worry and he would not stop at any location which was under water. Thankfully my stop had begun to dry out and I walked the few blocks to my second floor apartment. The area never flooded although San Felipe and Westheimer did. I remember the news that night – of folks who slept in their vehicles as traffic was so horrific. It was a long night.
June 26, 1989 – Monday and my brother’s birthday stands out in my mind because again the traffic was backed up due to heavy rain. A commute of 15 minutes took over two hours. Just before the turn to my apartments – my car was rear ended by a pick up truck. Nobody was hurt but I learned another lesson – call the cops and get a police report. The perp – an attorney – had a number of tickets and did not want to have another.
In June 2001 Tropical Storm Allison flooded Houston and earned legendary status. I was leaving Houston for good that Friday and drove down I 10 to Beaumont. I noted cars on the side of the interstate – victims of high water. I drvoe behind an 18 wheeler and made it home in four hours. I recall the rain began as a gentle splatter on the windshields but created a vast array of carnage. Twenty-three people lost their lives – many were flooded out of their homes. The downtown area was a sea of floating debris. Baylor Medical Center lost thousands of files to flooding.
I remember seeing a young man sitting in a kayak on Highway 59. I heard of a young woman who was caught in a downtown elevator and drowned. Tragic story after story. An apartment on Jackwood located close to Memorial Park was underwater. Many tenants did not have insurance. Their dreams of glory in the nation’s 4th largest city went down the drain along with many others. Others miles from the downtown area lost everything.
I recall Pastor Ed Young of Second Baptist had acquired a list of folks who needed help. One Saturday night Pastor Ed encouraged church members to commit to helping one family. He stated if you agreed to do so he expected the family would be helped. Don’t take a name of a family to assist if you don’t intend to do so. He repeated that statement several times. His words they are our neighbors and we must help ring true across the years.
I recall a home near Braeswood and Stella Link burned – victim of a gas fire and the fire trucks could not get through the high water. The home burned to the ground. For weeks citizens dried out their possessions as best they could. Some had to toss aside cherished family treasures as the flood claimed yet another victim. The memories resurface as I viewed the latest edition to Houston’s floods.
Those who are harmed are often those with the most to lose. The fat cats who call the shots are insured – heck they may well own the insurance companies. Their loss will be recouped. Not so with tenants who keep companies going. Not so with those who have lost their vehicles and have no means to commute to work. Not so with those whose dreams of success lie in a puddle, a carnage, a sad testament to a city who has truly bowed to the foot of Baal.
Until the city of Houston makes an honest effort to confront the flooding in Houston and it will happen again, more devastation, loss of life is going to happen.