"And they had to walk away and leave it all to the whim of nature and the will of God."
Well, we just got word, rather conclusively, that my aunt and two cousins in Texas lost everything in Hurricane Ike. I say rather conclusively because we've not heard it yet directly from them. But my sister-in-law here in Mount Savage saw photos on Fox News and heard mention of my cousin's name as the one who submitted the pictures of his business (and home area) at Crystal Beach -- reduced, apparently, to a pile of rubble on property that appears now to be a sand bar in the Gulf of Mexico.
My brother Jim called Mom and me this morning to tell us that Gay saw the pictures. We extrapolate from there that Pat's mom (my mother's sister) Veronica and brother Mike, likewise, have lost their homes at Port Bolivar, since they were all situated about a mile apart.
My mother told me last evening -- and I told Gay -- that her sister Frances in Meyersdale had told her that their other sister Annette in Fairhope had told her that Veronica had told her (we're getting our news in round-about channels) that Pat, who owns the Firestone dealersihp at Crystal Beach and is a pilot, intended to rent a plane in Houston, where he and his wife Mary Ann had gone to ride out the storm with their son Jim, and fly over to see for himself -- and take pictures. (Veronica and Mike had gone to a hotel in Beaumont.)
Galveston, too, it seems, was pretty much destroyed, though the hundred-year-old sea wall stood steady. Port Bolivar doesn't have a sea wall.
I had wondered why Veronica and Mike went to Beaumont: It's not far north and east of Galveston; still along the coast; and seemingly not much better situated for them to avoid the monster storm's ravage. In fact, that area did get flooding and tornadoes. It seems that my aunt and cousin are safe, though they are marooned at their hotel now with no basic amenities.
Ma says that Francie told her that Veronica telephoned hotels to the west of Galveston and couldn't get a reservation. I thought, then, "Why not just drive north as far as she and Mike could go, to get out of the storm's path altogether? They had a couple days' notice." Then I saw reports on the news that service stations along the evaucation routes were running out of gasoline. And the authorities were telling people in Houston to stay put and avoid the dangers of mass exodus that were experienced in previous situations of that sort.
"So," I specualted in conversation with Gay, "I guess folks who don't anticipate and leave early can find themselves in a situation where they can't get out." Seems a point is reached-- when you don't have enough gas in the tank to be able to go far enough to escape, or can't secure a hotel reservation for a place to stay, even at a gas tank's distance away -- when it is wisest to hunker down and take chances. I gained a whole new perspective on why folks might end up stranded and in need of rescue in such a storm. Seems that unless they've outright refused to accept means offered for transport out, we really can't speculate what their circumstances are and why they've remained behind.
My aunt's home at Port Bolivar was typical of the area: Two-story frame with a basement; constantly air conditioned to battle mildew that thrives in the high humidity; and expressive of deep southern hardiness and pride. (Ma and I flew down to visit for a couple of weeks in 1990.)
My aunt had furnished mostly in antiques from her and her husband's sides of the family; and she loves clocks. Her livingroom was a cacophony of tick-tocks and cuckoos of clocks she'd bought over the years everywhere she went.
My aunt Frances told Mom prior to the storm that Veronica had said from her hotel room in Beaumont that she had cleaned up after Hurricane Clara, I think it was, in the '80s, that had caused severe damage to her home. But she didn't know if she could do that again. Veronica is 84 years old and has made her life at Bolivar. Pat and Mike are Bolivar born and raised.
I've almost lost my life and had to battle all sorts of odds for many months to survive and rehabilitate; and I've lost most of my eyesight and had to let go suddenly of a way of life I'd always known and adapt to a new one. So I think I might understand the spiritual challenges of survival and grief and adaptation that they face. But I am fraught to imagine the gut-wrenching sadness of my aunt's and cousins' total loss of possessions and liveliehood and identity that has been taken from them in the night by Ike. And they had to walk away and leave it all to the whim of nature and the will of God.
Oh, I do know something about surrender -- and prayer. I'll be praying for their surrender.
(c) Nancy E. Thoerig 09-14-08