Remembering Hurricane Harvey’s impact


Photo provided by Natalia Salas Photo credit: Natalia Salas

On Aug. 18, 2017, I walked out of my house at 4 a.m. with all my things packed in my dad’s car and jokingly saying goodbye to all the objects I saw around me. “Goodbye chair, goodbye bed, goodbye lamp, goodbye door.” I felt the obligation to be as annoying and over-dramatic as I possibly could because my parents were officially becoming empty nesters. I took that opportunity and milked it for all it was worth. I was going to college, after all, and I had to be at least a little annoying since they weren’t going to have to deal with me for months at a time over the next four years.

On Aug. 19, I started to take notice of weather reports that said a hurricane may be approaching the area, but I didn’t think much of it; Houston had flooded twice in the last couple of years, and my house had never been affected. Then, students started to get alerts and classes started to be cancelled here in San Antonio. I was too busy adjusting to my new life and still didn’t think twice about it. I saw all the precautions being taken by the university. I saw the turmoil on social media of people preparing for the worst, as they bought every last water bottle at grocery stores, caused inflated gas prices, etc. But somehow, I still couldn’t be bothered to care all that much.

On the morning of Aug. 26, I saw all the Snapchat stories from friends back home displaying the aftermath of the storm, a storm that I had almost entirely ignored until then. It looked like the storm had passed; the damage had been done, and — from what I knew — my house was fine. Later that day, I received a text from my parents saying that our house and all our cars were flooded. I was more in shock than sad, since I really didn’t think destruction was an option until it happened, so I was almost numb to the situation. I didn’t make a big a deal out of it at first.

For about six months (which was extremely fast, given the state of the city), my family hopped from house to house until ours was ready to be moved back into. Given the situation, my family was undeniably fortunate — not only because of flood insurance, but also because of the amount of friends, family and strangers who helped my family move back into our home after they had completed their long list of repairs.

During the next couple weeks following the flood while I stayed here at school, I felt guilt, shame, self-pity, compassion, empathy and an indescribable mixture of them all as I witnessed the aftermath of the flood from afar — 199 miles, to be exact.

Guilt because I wasn’t there. I went about my day-to-day life, went to classes, made plans with my new friends and experienced an entirely new life all while my parents struggled to put our lives back together after we had lost our home.

Shame because I suddenly felt that I had taken my city for granted for 19 years, and now I wasn’t there to help put it back together after it had been torn apart.

The self-pity came from a place of selfishness and entitlement, I’ll admit. Embarrassingly enough, I had to remind myself that inanimate objects — especially those that personally belonged to me — were nothing compared to the homes and lives that had been lost during the flood.

I felt compassion and empathy for the people who — as cheesy as it may sound — had it way, way worse.

On Aug. 11, 2018, I left my house at 9 a.m. to move back into Trinity for my sophomore year. Needless to say, the door I closed behind me was a completely different door from the one I jokingly said goodbye to just one year earlier. This time, I was sure not to annoy my parents with announcing my goodbyes to the brand new objects that had replaced the ones we lost.