This weekend was a rather sobering one for me. I went to Galveston with my dad and some of his students from Southwestern for a service project. We worked with the Episcopal church to help rebuild some houses that were damaged by Hurricane Ike last September. I got married in Galveston and Keith and I made many a trip there in the year leading up to our wedding. My dad’s family also has a long history with the city, so I have always had an affinity for it. I hadn’t been down there since December of 2007, but we sailed by on our way out to see on our cruise in October 2008. Anyway, I knew there had been a lot of destruction and damage, but I hadn’t really heard more than that.
When we arrived in Galveston on Friday, it was already dark. However, there were piles or rubble and trash every where and holes in the horizon where homes should have been. As we drove down the main street, many of the houses and store fronts were dark and you could tell nobody was living there. The next day we went to work on the house of an older couple that had already been totally gutted and had new sheet rock and insulation installed. We worked on mudding the seams, which was an all day project. The house was in a neighborhood on the ocean side of the city and at a lower elevation. They had about 4 feet of standing water, which wasn’t too bad all things considered. Some part of the city got much more than that. It was great to help them, but you realize that your whole day’s work accomplished only a very very small part of the job that has to be done before those people can return to a normal life. A lot of people are not that lucky and I got the feeling that many people just left and didn’t come back. Some people don’t have the money to rebuild, others have nothing left to even work with. The whole city seemed to be empty and rundown, which is beyond sad to me.
Later that day, we all went over the ferry to Bolivar, which is where Keith and I got married. Bolivar was probably the hardest hit by Ike and most of the dramatic pictures taken during and after the storm where from Bolivar. I knew our house was more than likely not going to be standing, but it was heart breaking to see that there was literally nothing left. No foundation or stilts or even grass. Just a lot covered in sand, two dying palm trees, and the little concrete sidewalk that served as our aisle. The two houses next door were standing and obviously being rebuilt, but they were the exception. Almost all of the ocean front homes were gone or unable to be salvaged. The ones farther back were in a little better shape, but it seemed like it was total chance which ones were destroyed and which were spared. The dunes are also gone. No grass anywhere. The beach grew considerably because all of the sand that eroded off of the island beaches was pushed up to Bolivar because of the currents.
I have never been to war and have never seen a “war zone,” but it is really the only thing I can compare it to. There were homes that had fallen off of there stilts and were sitting just next to them, fully intact, on the ground. There were others that were still standing, but were missing huge chunks to where you could see through the house. We drove by a field that had an upside down house that looked like a monopoly house someone had thrown across the table. There was trash everywhere from when the water came in. A forest of plastic bags. The ferry landing didn’t even have power. There were no animals aside from the occasional stray cat. It felt like nothing was alive. The grass had been suffocated by sand and the leaves on the trees had all been blasted off. There were impromptu mobile home parks and tent cities of the people who had nowhere else to go.
It makes me sad to know that the place where I have so many amazing and beautiful memories has been reduced to such chaos. It makes me sad that we can never go back and rent the beach house where we got married or even walk down the path that served as our aisle. It makes me sad that for every home that you see destroyed, there is a family left picking up the pieces. It makes me sad that people have to live in conditions that are unsanitary, dangerous, and often hopeless. But it pisses me off that more is not being done about it. It was a big deal when it happened, and then the media forgot about it. Where are the pictures now? Where are the stories about the recovery process? Why isn’t this as important as Katrina or Rita? Where is the federal aid? I don’t think that people realize how bad it really is down there and how much help is needed. Even if you can only give a day or a dollar, that is more than some people have at this point.
I will post some of the pictures I took once Keith gets back with our camera. But I encourage anyone who reads this to educate themselves more on the situation in Galveston and Bolivar and what they can do to help.