I spent the day yesterday “hunkered down” as those of us in Hurricane country call it with my 98-year-old mother in the safety and comfort of @CarriageInnHuntsville. I had not thought about the safety of the elderly until now.
Mom’s Residential Facility sits high on one of Huntsville’s seven hills, secure and safe from flooding. Had there been wind, it might have been a different story. But, thanks to a new three-story apartment complex right next door, even that might have been alleviated since the wind would have taken out the new construction first. Or not. With Mother Nature and her hurricane and tornado offspring, you never know.
That was all too evident in the terrifying images flickering across the television screen all day on all the Houston channels. One scene inside a nursing home somewhere in the flooded areas of Houston showed the elderly sitting in their wheel chairs in two feet of water. The grimy gray water lapped across them as they waited for rescue. You could see the fear in their faces as they looked toward the camera, their eyes wide and tear-filled, hands grasping for something, anything, to pull themselves out of the water. They were completely unable to help themselves. Had it risen higher, as it surely has by now, they could easily have drowned where they sat.
My husband always wonders what in the blue-blazes the camera and TV people are doing. I’m sure they did put down their microphones and cameras to help get the elderly out of that facility. But one wonders at the determination of the TV crews who shove microphones into the faces of wet, shivering, terrified flood victims to ask them how they feel. How do you think they feel, you idiots? But then, what would I have had to watch all day if there hadn’t been all that TV coverage?
There were scenes, too, where neighbors helped their elderly neighbors get out of flooded homes. Rickety grandmothers crawled out of open windows, aided by friends and family. Good Samaritan strangers hauled wheel chairs into boats followed by their creaking, slow-moving residents. Again and again, they carried their neighbors to safety at nearby gas stations. Not dry, certainly, but safe.
All too often the elderly are large and heavy and hard to move, encumbered by oxygen tanks and other medical paraphernalia. Getting them out of homes and into boats or trucks can take two or three large men, and even 15 year-old boys. Fortunately, Houston has many of those and they were in evidence yesterday, and probably today, and again tomorrow, lifting, carrying, helping move those unable to move themselves.
Ben Taub Hospital, with all of its sick and elderly, was also forced to evacuate. At least they had nurses and doctors and staff to get them out. Or at least as many staff as could get to the hospital through the flooded streets. One nurse reported walking two miles through hip deep water from her home to high ground where a friend picked her up to get her to the hospital only to have to walk though more water to get inside the hospital.
We praise our First Responders for their efforts and, it is true, they were amazing. But there simply weren’t enough of them. When a city of 4 and a half million people goes underwater, it is up to the citizens to rescue each other. And they did. When on-site TV commentators asked for cans of gas (okay, the TV crews can be useful at times) to keep rescue boats going, people carrying red gas cans appeared out of nowhere to refuel the boats. The television call for blankets and food brought piles of goods into the various sanctuaries opened for the newly homeless.
There were hundreds if not thousands of examples of Good Samaritans helping to rescue their fellow citizens. This was Houstonians saving Houstonians. It has happened before, and since Houston sits in a swamp, it will happen again. One woman said that her home had flooded thirteen times over the years.
As many times as Houston has flooded in the last few years, –The Tax Day Flood, the Memorial Day flood, flooding from Allison–one wonders if perhaps books and articles like “Boom Town, Flood Town,” and “Hell and High Water” may need to be studied more critically by our politicians. Too much concrete, too few green spaces, too many homes, with too little regulation. Perhaps Mother Nature and her hurricanes and tornadoes will provide the ultimate decrees–stop building in flood-prone zones. We can’t beat her and her swirling, destructive offspring.
All we can do is help each other and, thank goodness, Houstonians did.