For the past week, I’ve struggled to put together my thoughts and feelings about what has happened in Texas since Hurricane Harvey came ashore. As I sit here writing this, trying to put these thoughts in order, I can’t even remember what day the storm hit us. Everything has just run together. As I was working at our church a couple of days ago, a word just popped into my head to describe my feelings. That word was overwhelmed.
We were overwhelmed by a storm that just kind of snuck up on us. Even just hours before it made landfall, it was supposed to be a small storm that hit and then went away. Then it wasn’t. All of a sudden what was just supposed to be a “rain event” for most of Texas turned into an overwhelming storm that destroyed the area where it made landfall and continued to wreak havoc for days on end.
The amount of rain was absolutely overwhelming. What started as 10 inches, a significant amount, turned into 30, 40, 50 inches. The amount itself is overwhelming. It’s hard to fathom over 4 feet of rain. We’ve flooded before. People have had four feet of water in their homes before. But four feet falling out of the sky? I mean, you hear 27 trillion gallons of rain and that’s not even something you can wrap your head around. Even the numerous infographics don’t help make it realistic. It’s just overwhelming.
The area affected is overwhelming. This storm is not a Houston thing, or even a Gulf Coast thing. Central Texas, South Texas, the Coastal Bend, Southeast Texas, and East Texas were all impacted by Harvey. In Houston, we see flooding in certain areas when we have the aforementioned “rain events”, but there was hardly any part of the metro area that wasn’t affected. The sheer number of homes, businesses, and people who have been damaged and displaced, many who never flooded before, is overwhelming.
The emotions have been overwhelming. Name one. They’ve all been seen this week. Despair, heartbreak, fear, anger, guilt, and the list goes on and on. The emotional toll for many will be as damaging as the rain. It’s just been an overwhelmingly emotional week for everyone, even those who didn’t flood.
Trying to find the words to describe this has been overwhelming. If you aren’t here to see it, you almost wouldn’t believe it. It’s impossible to wrap a keyboard around it all.
But as the rains slowed and, finally, stopped, something else happened that was absolutely overwhelming. People came out of hiding and immediately hit the ground running to help. Not just Texans, though. The Cajun Navy showed up early, pulling people from flooded homes left and right. People from all over the United States descended on Texas like the rainbow to the rain that had done so much damage. National Guardsmen, police, fire fighters, doctors, nurses, electric workers, and more service providers and public safety folks showed up within days, many from as far away as New York. So did just random people looking to help. I’ve seen lemonade stands from North Dakota and the Caribbean with kids donating their money to relief efforts. The response has been overwhelming.
Neighbors who may have never met the person one street over were there with hammers and knives, removing sheetrock and cleaning out damaged houses. Lines of people with donations and supplies, or ready to help their community were as long as the lines of people in need of that help. JJ Watt’s YouCaring.com fundraiser, has raised nearly $20 million from over 180,000 donors so far and isn’t stopping. While there have been a number of high-profile donors, the majority of the money has been raised by “regular” people, with an average donation of about $100. It’s been overwhelming (at times to the YouCaring servers, too).
As the waters rose, a funny thing happened. All of the reported dividing lines in our society got washed away. Black, white, brown, and yellow lined up side-by-side to serve or be served. Republicans and Democrats, gay and straight, rich and poor, and every other social construct that the news would have you believe divides us were dissolved by the overwhelming need to just be together and support all of our friends and neighbors regardless of our perceived differences. The unity of this city has been overwhelming.
Since this is, normally, a real estate coaching blog, I am proud to say that the response of the Realtor community during this storm has been so incredibly impressive. I am proud to be a Texas Realtor. From actually being on boats rescuing people, to setting up and delivering supplies into much-needed areas, to giving time and money to relief efforts, to getting out and helping friends and clients start their journey to recovery, it has been overwhelming to see the hearts of these Realtors shining in the community. Not to limit it to local agents, funds and assistance have come rolling into Texas from our colleagues all over the country.
We have a long way to go, to be sure. There are still areas where people can’t get home, get clean drinking water, or even drive on some freeways. We have hundreds of thousands of homes to rebuild, families to return to something that looks like normal, business to reopen, lost lives to remember, and plans to redraw to help make sure this doesn’t happen again. The amount of work ahead might look overwhelming, but as I write this, based on what we’ve seen these past 7 days, I have an overwhelming sense of hope, resilience, and optimism. HoustonStrong and TexasStrong will, I believe, be the war cries that show the rest of the country and the world what it means to come together to rally, respond, and recover stronger and better than before.
I want to just take a second before wrapping this up to give thanks. If you are reading this and have donated, worked, helped, given, served, volunteered or done anything to help in this relief and recovery effort, I want to thank you. It’s because of you and those efforts, no matter how big or small, that we will not be overwhelmed, but come out of this stronger.