Saturday, September 20, 2008

They also serve who stand and wait

It's a bad sign when Anderson Cooper* shows up in your hometown in hip waders.

For those of you who didn't know, Bridge City, Texas is where I grew up. It's where almost everyone in my family lives, and Papi's family, too. And it's where Anderson Cooper was "reporting live" this time last week. Hurricane Ike damn near blew the town off the map. Here's a picture of my sister Peetie's house:

House features Open-air Utility Room; New landscaping; Water views from every room!

My niece, Reilly's, bedroom. They found the rest of her bed on the other side of the house.

You eagle-eyed observers may have noticed, it was a brick house. As in, "where all the pigs were safe from the Big Bad Wolf." A 47-year-old brick house that has seen its share of bad weather. Hurricane Ike blew it to bits. I asked if Peetie was able to salvage any of Reilly's toys; my mom said Reilly's things were all just gone -- as in, not there anymore. The neighbor's house is nothing but a slab now. [Ben's parents had a house on the Bolivar peninsula that met a similar fate. I believe it was Ben's father who said, "Well, at least we won't have to clean it up."]

Gilchrist, Texas. That house you see? Not Ben's.

Grandmother's house is in similar shape to Peetie's, as is Uncle Buddy's, and Aunt Kim's, and a whole bunch of other people in town. There are dead animals everywhere -- GOATS in Grandmother's yard; who knows where they came from? -- and millions of fish. When we first heard reports about the destruction, our hearts sank. It's just a sleepy little town, but it means the world to us.

I wasn't lying about the fish. They're in people's houses, too.

The good news is, the recovery is coming along faster than anyone could have expected. They already have the power back on! Everyone came back from the evacuation as quickly as they could and went straight to work, ripping out carpet and scrubbing down walls. For some people, it will take a lot longer, but there is progress.

I love this picture, too -- cowboys herding cattle off the Bolivar peninsula after the storm.

In fact, Bridge City is ahead of Houston on at least one point: we still don't have electricity in my neighborhood, and likely won't until next Thursday (9/25). The kids probably won't go back to school until Monday the 29th. And I live in the middle of the city! Actually, the suburbs had their power restored sooner -- fallen trees are holding up power restoration in my neighborhood; the suburbs, which were clear-cut before the houses were built, don't have this problem.

Our trampoline is FUBAR, and our fences are down, but I really can't complain about too much.
More pics at Uncle John's Flickr account.

There is one thing I would like to get off my chest, though. Some people, including a few of my friends, have suggested that those of us who aren't back in town yet are simply afraid to do without air conditioning. And I am as much a fan of a.c. as the next guy, but that's not why I'm staying away. The way I see it, by staying in Austin, I am one less car on the dangerous roads in town (no electricity = no traffic lights). I am one less person in the gas line, and the ice line, and the food line.

In order to avoid being part of a traffic jam, I left in the middle of the night last Wednesday. I wasn't under an evacuation order, and I didn't want to hamper those who were legitimate evacuees. Papi stayed in town throughout the week; after the storm passed, he cleaned up our yard, and helped friends clean their yards, rip out their carpet, and called in reports to those who did evacuate. This weekend Papi is going to Bridge City to help clean out Grandmother's house, and do whatever else he can to help. But the best thing I can do is stay out. So I ask those of you who say that you are newly filled with a neighborly spirit, but are tired of looking at the absentee neighbor's yard: Why don't you just go over there and clean it up?

*Now for the love of all things holy, will you people quit talking about how cute Anderson Cooper is? You know who he looks like, don't you?

He looks exactly like my dad.


  1. I don't know. I've never heard of your dad standing in waist-deep water for no good reason.

    Something that hasn't gotten much play in the media (at least from what I've seen) is that traffic is absolutely horrible here. Given how many lights have no power and how many that do have power are still flashing red, that's not surprising on surface streets. What has surprised me is how awful the freeways have been. The West Loop, 59, and 10 have been gridlocked all afternoon until after 7:00 PM every night this week. I guess that more people are using the freeways because the surface streets are so bad.

    In any case, although the traffic light situation, the gas situation, and the food situation are getting better, I don't see how people coming back when they aren't needed in town and have a place to stay out of town does anything other than exacerbate the principal problems that we have. (I'm not trying to trivialize the damage that people have experienced in BC or Bolivar or Galveston; but the main problems where you and I live right now are power, gas, traffic, and food.) None of which is to say that I don't miss you and E&B and wish mightily that you'll come back soon.

  2. So sorry to hear about the damage to the family "estate."

  3. Wow. My thoughts go out to you and your family. I just cannot even imagine.

  4. MissEm -- Get off the internets and go get married! Y'all have a great day.

  5. Oh my. With every paragraph, my jaw dropped a little further.

    If you aren't needed in town, I'm with soletrain -- don't get in the way of people getting services back on line.

  6. M: someone told me tonight what had happened to you and I was totally shocked. I didn't know you were from Bridge City. I can't imagine what you and your family are going through. All the pictures of the dead animals and the destroyed houses are overwhelming to just to see. The pictures from Boliver are really hard to comprehend. It's a good thing your family got to evacuate because in Boliver the waters rose faster than they anticipated and there's a line of cars where people had to just leave them. unreal. Half of West U won't have their lights until maybe another week and Tanglewood is going to be a month because the grid burned up. Meyerland is still completely dark still and Bellaire is half dark. I can't believe how lucky we were to get our lights just after 5 days. And I apologize to you that you took my comment about my neighbor personally. It's a long story, which I will be glad to share with you in an email. Please accept my apology.

  7. I cannot imagine how difficult all of this must be. I wish you and your family the best in sorting out this catastrophe that just... fell on you.