I was standing in the middle of where Hurricane Katrina had flooded out an entire town, and with it, taken everything.
There was nothing more eerie than standing where life was … and then suddenly wasn’t. Where days were spent and people came home. Where children grew, and memories were made, before suddenly everything became nothing.
Standing there, looking down the street, I saw absolutely nothing but destruction. Houses taken right off their foundations, cars piled up in unrecognizable mangled heaps of metal. Vines and moss grew on everything, and what had been growing there before had simply been washed away.
Turning the corner, to a street where several houses still stood, I couldn’t breathe as the reality of the situation built up in my throat. People, having nowhere else to go, had come back to waterlogged houses that they couldn’t even begin to renovate themselves.
It had been a year since the storm had hit, and I was there as a missionary to help the neighborhoods that had been forgotten once the news media moved had on. A street which had housed residents in poverty before the storm, now stood completely untouched in the year since the storm had passed — because no one had the financial means or physical ability to even begin a renovation. Mold had taken over nearly everything, and what hadn’t already been ravaged was now being destroyed by bugs. Families, with nowhere else to go, were camped on their front lawns, or squeezed into tiny FEMA trailers.
For days, I helped residents empty and gut their homes, suffocating behind a filter mask in the 111-degree heat. Tears washed the dirt from my face while town residents endlessly stopped by, begging our team to go help them next; pleading with us to not move on and forget them too. Showing me their children, who had nothing.
Imagine walking away from a child who has nothing.
But there was never enough help for everyone, because as fantastic as our nation is at rallying around people in crisis, too many forget that the crisis doesn’t end when the news turns their attention to something else.
The people of Texas are in a crisis right now. They need all the help that they can get. I am PROUD to see our nation standing up behind them, in the pictures of the highways lined with boats being towed in for rescues, and trucks delivering much needed supplies.
This is what makes me proud to be an American, especially when there are days that have me questioning our flag.
But there is a sinking feeling in my soul, knowing that I know what will come next, and what many Texas residents are about to learn — that they soon may be forgotten.
The shelters will close, and the Red Cross will move on. Schools will stop collecting supplies, and volunteers will go back home to their families and jobs. And the people of Texas will learn exactly what their insurance won’t cover, who is being laid off from businesses no longer there, and how long the waitlists are for clean-ups and renovations.
The hardest hit will be the ones who were struggling to survive before the storm even came. The elderly living alone. The single moms who could barely put food on the table. The young men working local jobs that suddenly aren’t there anymore. The disabled who could barely make it to the grocery store alone, who are now three years down on a renovation waitlist.
These people will still need our help, and they are going to need it for years to come. They need YOU.
Everyone assumes that once the emergency shelters have closed and the people have filtered out, that supplies will be no longer needed — but the truth is that they will be needed more! They will need donations of cleaning supplies, masks, paper towels, and trash bags, as the clean-up will be intense and could take years. They will need water and snacks for the missionaries camped out in churches and schools, and they will need money to buy materials for residents whose insurance didn’t cover the flood. They will need clothing and holiday toy donations for local charities that will continue to be overwhelmed with so many people trying to get back on their feet. And animal shelters will face the daunting task in rehoming many beloved pets, who can’t go back to their families who are in lengthy, yet temporary, living accommodations.
If you wanted to go down and help now, but couldn’t, trust me when I say that there is plenty of time for that. Rebuilds take years — and even though the news doesn’t make that part seem as dire as the initial tragedy, YOU try raising three kids in a tent on your front lawn. Join a crew (churches are always sending teams down there, and they aren’t necessarily religiously based). Plan a trip. And yeah, maybe skip your yearly vacation to do it.
We all wish that we could really make a difference. So here is our chance to be the people we hope to teach our children to be.
The world will begin to move on once the news stop showing their tears, but the residents of Texas deserve not to be forgotten, because they are our neighbors.
They are our fellow Americans, and they are living through something that most of us don’t even want to imagine.
They deserve to have the continued support of their country, and they deserve to not be forgotten.
They need you to remember them after the news has moved on.