Sunday, March 1, 2009

Day Forty-Nine: Lest I Forget (part I)

"Write it down, everything you can remember. You must write it all down, lest you forget, and it is lost for good..."

It seems like a lot of people I meet who move to this city absolutely hate it within about two months of it. It's too crowded, it's too dirty, people can't drive, it smells, it's too big, it's too easy to get lost in. I've heard a lot of reasons, and most of them are very valid reasons one would choose to hate a city. (Most often, the reason seems to be "It's not home," though that's rarely expressed)

My first month in this city was probably the hardest month Houston has had in the three-and-a-half years I've lived here. They say you see what people are really made of when you throw them into a crisis situation. If that's so then it was less than ten days before I got to see the "real" Houston, Texas.

I only spent half a day at Reliant Park in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. As you'll recall, Katrina was the storm that basically destroyed the city of New Orleans in the late summer of 2005. They gathered all the survivors and threw them onto buses to get out of the city, and Houston was destination numero uno due to our proximity and our capacity. Reliant Park, the Astrodome, the George R. Brown Convention Center, and other such facilities around the city became refuges for thousands of people, many of whom had had no way of knowing whether their family and friends had survived, let alone made it to the same city they had. Some of them had endured worse horrors while waiting to be bussed out than they had in the storm. The number of lives that were torn apart within hours was staggering. And then they were on our doorstep, needing help.

As I say, I was only able to spend a short time as a volunteer (I tried more than once; one time I was turned away because the city had responded in such great numbers that they actually didn't have use for any more help at that time), but in those few hours I saw much, heard much, thought much, learned much. I don't know why I'm choosing this as the right time to finally make a written record of my memories. I've wanted to do so for over three years, but haven't found the time/motivation to do so. I suppose the combination of not having anything to write tonight and wanting something of substance to balance the glut of silliness we've had around here lately is enough to finally get me to this task. If that's the push I've needed, I'm grateful for it.

If you'll indulge me, friends, I'm going for a stroll down memory lane these next couple of days. And if you won't, well, I'm going to do it anyway. :-)