Houston Strong, Texas Proud by Chris

We spent five days sitting in our house waiting for tragedy. Honestly after you experience tragedy, there’s a part of you that’s always expecting it again. I watched people get off boats both in person and on TV and while most of them are smiling, there is an instant where there is a blank stare. It’s only an instant and I’m sure if you haven’t experienced it, you probably don’t even see it. It’s a look I know, because it’s been on my own face so many times. It’s the overwhelmed feeling of sadness, and loss, and the realization that you have to keep pushing forward. I see it, because I know it.

Today, my feet are tired. No, not tired. They’re past that. They’re numb. I have spent the past four days trying to help my state recover from what has transpired here. If you don’t live here, you don’t know. You have NO idea what has happened here. National news does not do it justice. You don’t understand how big and wide spread Houston is. You don’t understand our city or the water systems within in. You don’t understand the magnitude of loss. You will sit and judge and tell us how we should have ALL evacuated or how certain figure heads should have done this or that, or how we should have been prepared and just not flooded. Plenty of Texans have spoken to this and tried to explain it. I don’t need to beat a dead horse, but I will say, if you don’t have anything positive to say, just don’t, no-one here needs your negativity right now. If you’re upset about what other people are doing, instead focus on what you are doing.

What I can explain to you is what IS happening in Houston. I NEED you to know. I need you to see what I’ve seen theses last 4 days.

We started on Tuesday, the first day we could really leave our house and get around safely, at a Mosque right outside our neighborhood. We are not Muslim but they called for volunteers for their temporary shelter and we live right here so it just made sense. I was welcomed with open arms. I saw a need and took charge and got the clothing organized and it got to a point where people were looking to me for what to do next. It was hard work but it felt good and the entire place was FILLED to capacity with love. I saw people of all cultures, religions, genders, and nationalities helping each other. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

I ate lunch (which the women of the Mosque had cooked, and it was AMAZING) with a man who had been in boats saving people for the last few days. He thanked me for being there. He was kind and his smiled filled the room. We laughed together. They made an announcement and said something in Arabic and I asked him what it was, “InShaAllah? It means if God wills it.” He asked me if I’d been there before, and proceeded to say, “Not all muslims are bad. Media sensationalizes the terrible people who do terrible things and all people know is what the media tells them.” I assured him that I totally understand, the same thing happens with Christians, one bad seed. There’s a whole chunk of history of a bunch of Christians doing some terrible things in God’s name.

“We’re just people who want to love other people and that’s what we’re doing. That’s what everyone is doing here, we’re humans who need help. No one is telling me ‘no, you’re muslim, don’t save me’, when I show up on that boat. They’re just smiling and so happy to be rescued.”

He told me about saving an elderly woman who couldn’t walk. He asked her if she wanted him to carry her. She told him that he couldn’t, and asked his age. “I told her I’m 60, but I could carry her no problem, and she let me”. For the record he didn’t look a day over 45.

After only an hour or so there I started to see the disconnect between the shelters, and efforts and people trying to do something. I felt like they needed to be connected, and working together. So after we did all we could do at the Mosque we moved on to an EMS station because we’d heard they were acting as a dispatch center for emergency responders. Our friend had been working with them in a large truck trying to help rescue people from their homes. For the record, everyone was doing this, while it was still raining.

As I walked up to the EMS station a sheriff yell out, “hey are you hungry?!”. Some folks in some little Texas town saw on Facebook that the emergency responders there were hungry so they loaded up their crawfish boiler and got to them and started cooking! They didn’t ask questions, they just did, and that’s what Texans do.

I also met a team of guys, and their two boats, who had driven down from Fort Worth, TX to help rescue people, because there was the need. While I was there a Sherrif, who had heard what I was trying to do yelled over to me, “HEY BIG HELPER! Are your boat people still here?”

An EMT walked up to me and asked if I could get them new, dry socks. “I’ve been working over 24 hours and my socks are wet and there is definitely a hole in one of them. All our people could use socks.” I made a few calls and within an hour I had socks for them.

We spent the remainder of the day traveling to different shelters in schools, donation centers and rescue dispatch points trying to help coordinate efforts between everyone in the area, finding needs, and trying to fill them. By the end of the day my phone number had been shared on multiple lists and I was getting calls from all kinds of people asking about donations, volunteering and more.

Late that night I got a call from a woman who was trying to offload donations from her church to a distribution center. I told her I didn’t know of a place, most of the shelters in the area were trying to do the same, but I could activate people to get to there and load up things and move them. The next morning we had at least 5 people with trucks at the ready. In the parking lot of Klein United Methodist Church I had the random idea to call the pastor who took over our last church. He knew of a pastor at another church that was accepting all kinds of donations. I called the folks over at Fusion Church and they were happy to accept donations.

My dear husband, who sees me with my big visions and meets me in the insane desire to help people, steps in and makes things happen. He coordinated loading all the trucks and packing things up and we got the whole thing accomplished in a matter of hours.

But this thing kept happening where there would be a need, and then it would just be fulfilled. I posted on social media about needing boxes, within minutes they arrived.

During one trip, we delivered pizzas to a demo team who was helping clean out a flooded house. Upon entering the neighborhood we saw two men strapping their monster truck to a flat bed. I can only assume they’d been going through high waters to save people.

As we drove down the road it began to narrow because of the volume of vehicles lining each side. As we got deeper into the neighborhood we began to see the teams of people cleaning out houses. Every single house on the street had the doors and windows open and piles of peoples destroyed belongings by the curb. Other items were strewn about the front yard in an effort to dry what remained of their homes.

I immediately flashed back to the days following our house fire, where it looked the same. I chocked back tears. Bill couldn’t actually get our car down the street to the house we were supposed to deliver to because the flood waters hadn’t actually receded in the street yet. I climbed out of the car and sloshed through the soaked grass to get to the front of the house. As I handed the pizza to the workers I thanked them, and as I turned to walk away tears started streaming down my face.

I know this place. I know this devastation. I still feel it heavy on my heart.

As we drove down the street, away from the destruction I wept.

We made a few more trips to move supplies and when the job was done we went over to Fusion together to start helping them there.

There were people running everywhere, donations sat in looming piles all over the gym and sanctuary. I walked into an office to talk to a woman named Jennifer to find out what she needed. She looked like she was on the verge of tears. Donations are amazing, but when they come in droves it can get overwhelming quickly.

“Jennifer, my name is Chris, I’m the one who got donations here from Klein UMC, I’m here to help you.”

“Hi Chris, I’m very overwhelmed.”

“Ok, I can organize and I can coordinate. I’m here for you from here out. Can I do that?”

From there I got to work. It’s all a really huge blur. There weren’t a ton of individual people coming for things, but there were a TON of donations. I worked to try to help get things organized, while my phone rang off the hook and I tried to make other things happen for other people too.

Four FexEx trucks showed up, loaded with donations. Volunteers filled the whole church, organizing and trying to make sense of the wonderful things that were happing. Freebirds donated food to all of us.

We sent loads of supplies to people at other donation centers as we saw the need. We sent things to Cleveland, TX and to Port Arthur.

“We need a truck, Chris can you get us a truck? We want to move a lot of these clothing to The Dream Center in Conroe.”

I called my contact at the EMS station, within two hours we had a 5 ton army vehicle and a bus. A man named Bruce owns the Bus, he also owns a company that gets retired military vehicles and busses, fixes them up, and then sells them. Bruce is a cool cool man. Bruce and his team ended up taking several loads for us, as well as picking up loads from other centers too.

We ended the whirlwind that was day two exhausted, but good exhausted, the kind where you felt like you really truly accomplished something.

MORE TO COME…

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