pensive impulse

"Between stimulus and response there is space.
In that space is our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom."
-Viktor E. Frankl

Commentary by Heather Bibby


What day is this?

Last Friday, Hurricane Harvey made landfall leaving behind massive destruction through its collision and course. An unfeeling storm propelled by unfeeling elements as homes and businesses were blown away upon impact, as water rose and rose and rose. As lives were lost, horribly. As thousands upon thousands of lives were forever changed. 

I remember looking out the passenger side window, during our drive back through Houston, in 2008 after Ike hit. We didn't say a word to each other. We were stunned. We'd boarded and sandbagged and evacuated. As transplants, we'd never been through a hurricane. Many folks left. Some folks stayed. The debris was everywhere. A word that seems to describe just a little pile of dirt on the floor. The debris was enough to fill 7.5 football stadiums, that is 25 million yards of debris - some little pile. The wind had brutally ravaged this city we'd barely gotten to know. Rooftops mangled. Trees uprooted. Windows busted. Power out for thousands, for weeks. As we passed Minute Maid Park, signaling to switch lanes towards I-45 South, not sure why as no one was on the roads, the voice on the radio spoke of a little beacon of light shining from one street in Clear Lake, with power still on. We turned up the volume to connect to that voice somehow. That was our street, Bibby Lane on the Bayou. 

I remember the street lamp beside our house, its midnight reflection blurring in the water pooled at our front door. In 2015, the rain just wouldn't stop. There's a sick feeling that washes over your body before the adrenaline kicks in. All you can say to yourself is, "This is happening." Then you burst into a flurry of action. We piled stuff on top of toppling-over piles of stuff trying to spare what we could from the gasoline-mixed, muddy water inches up our walls. 

Eight days ago, the water was once again up to our doorstep. My husband came into the bedroom to lean over and whisper in my ear, "It's time." I had been sitting on the side of our bed, both my children under the covers, my daughter wouldn't let me let go of her hand. We'd been in the hallway a few times already, tornado warnings. One sighted in Galveston. One sighted in Webster. As my son talked to his little sister as distraction, I went to our front door. I looked at Joe and said, "This is happening." 

The next day after Ike, the next day after our flood - because there is a next day - what I remember is the people. In the parking lot, the VP of the company I worked for along with several employees, unloading generators into the cars and trucks of folks lined up for help. Neighbors sawing, raking, stacking debris from neighbor's yards before returning to their own to repeat the exhaustive process. The co-workers and friends who showed up on our doorstep at break of day, us not having asked. Dropping off food. Dropping off contacts for clean-up and rebuild. Visual support. Staying to pack our entire home in a day and move us out. 

So what is this day, this second of September? And the days that came before, and tomorrow, and the next day and the next day and the next day? These are days of monumental response because this is still happening. The storm has run its path to expiration, but the bitter taste of adrenaline still propels the actions of millions, enabling folks to respond over and over and over as the need is so great and unending. This storm, this event of infinite repercussions, has left no one spared in its wake. Spanning states, it may have been larger in scale than previous storms and events, so we're told. But the people are still the same people we saw after Ike. That came after our flood. Who've seen countless storms and events we know nothing about. They are the people that run towards the dark night. Towards the thunder. Towards the lightning. Towards the roaring wind and rain and water welling up around them, over top of them. These are the same people, at that first light of day, who show up to help having never been asked. They are the same people that stay for however they can be used. And they exclaim, "We are making it through this together. We are not leaving." 

Nature, weather, come what may, we can't control that. But the people, my God, the people running towards need; everywhere damage and water permeated and covered, people from all over the world are helping. The people of this city, our city we now know well and call home, these people are strong. They are warriors fighting for each other. They are survivors fighting for themselves. They are mighty of heart. They are unbelievably resilent in this together. 

There are countless known stories of help; we are seeing and hearing and reading about them every hour. And there are countless unknown stories of help; thousands of stories we'll never see or hear or read about. But they are out there, still happening. 

We made it through unscathed compared to our flood two years ago, compared to the sheer thousands who have lost everything through Harvey and all the need around us now. Wet carpet, roof damage; we are filled with thanksgiving yet we are drenched in heartbreak for our city. Our state. For everyone impacted. This is going to be happening for a long time to come. 

The sun came out on Wednesday. It wasn't a mocking sun. It was a sun of absolute Hope. But really, the sun was already out. Even when it goes dark, the power of the people are its beams. Their shine and warmth will always be felt - is now being felt - as the beacon of light on these streets of this City on the Bayou. 


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