The aftermath of the Harvey Hurricane tragedy continues on with no end in sight. My brother Joe and my sister-in-law Laura lost both their home and Laura’s mother’s home that is on the next block of their used to be beautiful neighborhood in Houston.
Here is a poignant peek into their daily reality written by my incredibly resilient sister-in-law, Laura Beggins:
“I like a good horror flick. You know a horror movie is going to exploit a few things over the course of its run-time; visual images and story arcs that are extraordinary (but possible?), disturbing concepts offering multiple opportunities to both set aside reality and march it right back into focus. But, the control over the experience is ours. We have to buy a ticket after all!
“Remove the elements of ‘choice’ and ‘control’ and no need to buy a ticket for your front row seat, and voila! True horror and not a limited engagement.
“For a much-too-large number of homeowners in Houston (an audience I will not insult by quoting it incorrectly), our horror show has been held over for an extended run. Only we’re the characters being exploited, treated to disturbing visual images from which there is no escape, living through the outrageous circumstances that nurture disbelief.
“We return to our neighborhoods daily where the assemblage of our belongings are hurled and heaped upon the building materials that once provided security, into piles eclipsing SUVs. While crews of volunteers and paid contractors remove every single solitary thing that defined our homes, right down to the studs.
“Intellectually we know we are fortunate in so many ways: for the extraordinary outpouring of charity from strangers, acquaintances, family and friends; for all the contractors in the thick of it with us, for insurance adjusters, FEMA assistance. Grateful barely approaches the level of appreciation we feel.
“But emotionally we are PTSD sufferers visiting a war-zone daily, walking among our neighbors who barely have it in them to raise a hand in acknowledgment, expressions glazed over and still in shock from the horror. I haven’t read of anyone channeling Michael Douglas in ‘Falling Down,’ but I’m quite certain we now all have a close, personal understanding of the frustration that prompts ‘going postal.’
“We’re sleep deprived and experiencing sensory overload. The sounds that define our neighborhoods are of saws, diesel engines, air compressors, generators and helicopters, heavy equipment and shattering glass, the thunk of building materials, furniture and fixtures being thrown atop ever increasing piles.
“Then there are the offending odors. The familiarity of scents of rotting food from our freezers and fridges and garbage cans eclipsed by the stench of mold blooms on our furniture and drywall that’s been submerged for several weeks in toxic, sewage-infused water. The variation of disgusting smells is astounding, how that sewage-infused water effects carpet and textiles differs from what it does to cement and tile, or drywall (and god forbid you’re intrigued by the ripple and billow of latex paint that begs you to pull and peel, assaulting you when you do, revealing a wholly unexpected new and repulsive odor).
“While flood-damaged folks contend with their personal nightmares, Houston residents who didn’t flood continue to feel the impact of the Harvey Horror, too. Gas shortages and road-closures, bumper-to-bumper traffic at all times of day and a pervasive rogue driving style contribute to imminent road-rage. Then there’s the scavengers: opportunists of all kinds have made the scene while demand for services is stretched beyond capacity; lawyers promise avenues of compensation that haven’t any merit to the confused and frustrated uninsured homeowners anxious about just what their future holds.
“While contemplating that future, there’s recognition that all the requisite elements are present for building character – what a slice of life! What an adventure … though I doubt anyone of us would have included it on our bucket lists.
“As with all challenges through which one emerges stronger, we’ll continue to plumb the depths of resolve and we remain devoted to summoning the necessary grit to sit through this horror show until the final credits roll.”
Local author Susan Velasquez’s two brothers and a sister and their families live in Houston.