August 25, 2017 was the date that Hurricane Harvey made landfall. That was a Friday. However, we didn’t experience any hurricane winds, rain, or storms until Saturday evening. There was a boxing match Saturday night Mayweather vs. McGregor. Rocky wanted to purchase the fight but was afraid Directv would lose signal in the middle of the fight due to the heavy winds and rain that had been building up earlier in the day. Therefore, when my cousin announced that he was going to order the fight, there was no hesitation in my husband’s decision to travel almost 30 miles with the family despite the increasing winds and head over to my cousin’s house. I remember being a little annoyed that we were driving into a hail-like storm, unable to see because of the heavy falling rains, just to see a boxing match. As I sit here today, I don’t regret going at all. We made some wonderful memories at my cousin’s house with Pebs. My parents, my sister’s family, my aunt and uncle, and other cousins were there with all the nephews and nieces. We had such an incredible night filled with laughter and love. Pebble loved to sing, (think in my previous blogs I mentioned our love for signing) and we would do it quite often and rather loud when we sang. This day was no exception. During the fight, he began singing at the top of his lungs a song not understandable coming from his 20 month old voice, but he sang it so loud and strong you would think he was singing it for a congregation of millions. He had everyone at the house laughing and falling in love with him. My dad, who was my son’s number 1 fan, taught him how to hit a punching bag that my cousin had hanging on his back deck. It was so amazing seeing him and my dad punch this bag, making the sound effects “boom!!” as they hit the bag. Then, they pretended to fight each other and took turns with anyone who was around to take a round with him in boxing. My cousin had a couple of TV’s on during the fight, but we were all outside underneath his deck covering watching the boxing match. The storm was increasing in strength, it seemed, by the minute. Every round, the thundering rain would get louder and the wind would get stronger. I was getting nervous because knew we had to drive in that rain back home and there was no indication that it was “letting up.” Through the 3 min rounds, Pebs sang, hit the punching bag, fought anyone who wanted to play fight, and occasionally, came to get some food and a kiss from mommy. It was a wonderful night. We have spoken of that night since the tragedy on several occasions. We recall the moments that I mentioned, how funny Pebble was as he sang loudly even when told to quiet down because the men were trying to hear the TV, he just would sing louder. The feeling of joy, happiness, love during a hurricane that was blowing fierce winds and heavy rain seemed almost metaphorical. In a time where fear, doubt, and anxiety relates to the storms in life, one positive, little soul full of life, joy, love can change the mood, the attitude of the entire atmosphere. That was my baby boy.
We arrived safe and sound at home. I believe I drove and was terribly nervous the entire drive. All my loves were fast asleep as we exited the vehicle into the house at night. It was way passed midnight by the time we fell into our safe and comfy beds. Pebs was placed into his crib but his usual 3 a.m waking up call wasn’t far from occurring, and mama, routinely and lovingly, would pick him up out of his crib and lay him on her bed, in her arms to continue their sleep. It was not much after 6 a.m. when I received a phone call from our friends who lived in Dickinson asking us how we were doing from the hurricane. I was surprised and caught off guard that they had called so early in the morning. We were still experiencing the rain, but didn’t think it was that big of a deal. He stated that they had over a foot of water in their house and that he had his wife and their three kids upstairs for now. I was in shock. Flooded? I leaped out of bed and ran downstairs to check our house and the girls. We were in the clear, so far. I rushed outside, where it was still coming down, and realized our front yard looked like a lake. Our house is on beams and not on a slab, but our little house sits on almost 3 acres of land. From my front porch, I couldn’t tell where my yard started or ended. All I could see was water, and it was still raining.
I called my friend back and asked how they were doing. He stated that he was taking his family some food upstairs, but the water just kept rising. He mentioned that there were some rescue boats that were supposed to go rescue people in these areas. I immediately tried turning the TV on, but didn’t have a good signal with our satellite connection. I started googling information regarding the rescue teams. In just a matter of hours, our city was on a rescue mission. We had neighborhoods under water, and people were scrambling to get out of their homes into a safe place. I, we, had to do something. I woke Rocky up and told him we needed to get the little jon boat on the trailer and head over to the Dickinson area. He was somewhat baffled, but didn’t take him long to get on board. Anyone that knows us, knows we are all about adventure and action. Since we had the boat on the deepest part of our land, getting the boat on the trailer was not an easy task as all of that area was way under water. Juggling the rain and helping Rocky load the boat, our rendezvous to help rescue our friends took us a few hours to prepare and get organized. Through our preparation, I kept in touch with our friends and could hear the desperation in his voice. He said he would walk, in waist high water, to the corner store trying to figure out what others in his area were doing. By this time, no one had power and all were waiting to be rescued. He mentioned there were so many people with boats that were trying to help rescue because there weren’t enough government boats to save everyone. I assured him we were on our way. However, so many roads were flooded and closed, finding the best route to them was going to be an additional challenge. It took us over an hour, all four of my family members, to arrive in their area. It was like a boat trailer festival except for the fun part of it. There were so many boat trailers empty of boats but still attached to their trucks, big and small, parked all on the side of the road where we needed to cross. Rocky carefully drove farther, passing up all the numerous parked empty boat trailers. There were so many boats on the street. We drove up to a stoplight, but were greeted with boats instead of vehicles. It was unreal, almost seemed like we were in a movie. It didn’t seem real. We were driving on a road that couldn’t be seen, hidden underneath a body of water, where boats were our driving companions instead of other vehicles. Our truck is a big, jacked up truck, by the way. Rocky drove into the street that entered into our friend’s neighborhood and as we exited the truck, the water was inches from entering the interior. He docked the boat and with the little battery operating motor, took off to our friend’s house who lived at the very back of the neighborhood. I stayed behind with the kids because the boat wasn’t large enough for all of us to ride in while trying to rescue a family of 5. We weren’t going to fit. As we waited, and waited, and waited, we would see boats coming out of the neighborhood with people, pets, and some belongings. Some people were escaping the floods by using their pool floats and even some blow up air mattresses! After about an hour, I finally saw my husband and 5 other people coming back on the boat with a dog. The jon boat didn’t go very fast. It was starting to rain again, so the men did their best to quickly unload the family and dog. Pebble was getting fussy and Rock wanted to go back to help others and decided Pebs would be a great assistant. The two men, plus my Pebs, headed back towards the neighborhood in search of others who needed assistance. My friend and I stayed behind with her two girls, her son, and Amee as the men did their heroic duty. In the several hours that we were there, they must’ve rescued 3 or 4 other families. They’d have women and children, all smiling nervously, as they were getting pulled out of their flooded homes. As the kids’ appetite increased and their cheerful attitude was replaced by raging fits, we finally had to abort our rescue mission. We offered to take a family down to a gas station where they would get a ride, and our friends would come stay with us. Again, the traveling back home was a challenge because the roads were already flooded, and it had stopped raining. We were all jammed packed in our two row seating truck, so 2 adults and the dog had to ride on the bed of the truck. Normally, this would be illegal in our area, but when you are in a flood, there are a few exceptions to the rules, and this was one of them. Of course, when you have to drive no more than 30 mph, sitting on the back of the truck seems pretty safe, considering the circumstance.
Hurricane Harvey devastated our entire city, but it brought memories that were made with my Pebs. It was a such a horrible time, filled with loss and suffering for so many, and we were blessed to have our home and help others during these difficult times. Through the next few days, we continued to help others. Not only did we help rescue them, but those that lost their homes and had to be demolished, we were there, Pebs included, helping them rebuild their lives. He was present through it all. When we couldn’t drive in and out of our neighborhood because the roads were all flooded, we drove our rzr (sport side by side vehicle) up and down streets to bring food and drinks to those that weren’t able to leave their homes. We did this together, as a family, with our new house guests, as well. He was 20 months but never did he act like a baby. He was such a big boy, never did he complain or whine. Everywhere around us, people were learning how to rebuild, how to file claims, how to demolish homes, where to dump their destroyed belongings, and churches coming together to help their communities and their own buildings. So many church buildings were damaged from this hurricane, but were still motivated to come together to help all others in need. I had never seen such collaboration in a city. I imagine that’s how New York united after 911 or Boston after the marathon bomb attack. I’m sure many cities, after a devastated catastrophe, united to help all those in need. In my 36 years of living, I had never experienced such unison, such love, such support from human kind. It was so beautiful. I felt immensely proud to be a Houstonian, seeing so many people from my city and surrounding areas, come together for the common good of others. And through it all, Pebs was with us. He was alive. He was here. He was breathing. He was laughing. He was smiling. He was living. And I guess that’s why it’s so difficult to approach the year anniversary of Harvey without feeling the pain, the sharp pain of grief engulf my soul. We were blessed during Harvey. We didn’t get flooded, didn’t lose our home, and we were able to help others. We reached out, giving what little we had, for others to survive. We were teaching our kids the importance of giving, sharing (our home, our belongings, our time), and to appreciate all that we do have.
I look back during those times and picture Amee and Pebs playing in the rain. It was their first hurricane experience and captured every moment of it. I recall Pebs walking in our flooded yard with his rain boots and getting stuck. He was so upset and kept calling for me to go rescue him. I was video taping him, telling him to just keep walking. He was going to be okay and that it was just water. He didn’t move until sister went to help him. But the moment was captured. I remember him sitting on my lap while we rode in the rzr. His little arms and legs were cold from the water splashing up on us so I covered him with a towel that we had. He soon fell asleep in my arms. Though this moment was not captured on video, it was engraved forever in my heart. He then suffered from a little cold and runny nose afterwards. I remember feeling bad and thought that I shouldn’t of taken him on that ride in the rzr. And now, almost a year later, I thank God I went on that rzr ride with my Pebs. Him on my lap, us sticking our hands out to touch the water, as we drove right through it.
We don’t ever understand why things happen, but I have learned to trust in my God. He knows why. Even if He told me, I probably wouldn’t understand it anyways. I try to live today with that motto. God is trying to teach me, strengthen me, or wanting me to embrace this moment, and so, I must obey. Living in grief hasn’t been easy to be obey. However, when my moments of sadness comes seeping in, I call out to Him. Let this pain endure for just a little while, and then help me embrace this day. Whatever today brings, help be embrace it. When my heart aches in agony, I pray to Him. I know today is necessary. I don’t know why, but it is necessary if He has me here. Pebs is smiling. I know he remembers all of his adventures that we had, and one day, soon from now, we will reminisce on all of our times we shared together.
“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes and there shall be more death nor sorrow nor crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”