Notes on a Calamity

I’ve been watching the scenes from Houston. The television coverage is as relentless as the rain. The subject is catastrophic. What I see is incredible courage, helpfulness, kindness.

Rain pounding down on the reporters, standing in knee-deep water, interviewing individuals whose homes are uninhabitable.

I cringe when I see the older people struggling to survive. Wheel chairs deep in water. Nursing homes swamped. The confused and mystified elderly. Only the struggle for life.

Helicopters hauling people from rooftops. Parents hugging their children. Volunteers pulling boats in chest-high water down the main streets of Houston. Densely crowded shelters, long lines to get inside.

Each day I hear of new rainfall records. I am informed schools have been closed all week. I see wreckage everywhere. And now the storm is making a new landfall now in Louisiana, as if they needed another one.

I read a blogger who lives in Houston. Normally he writes a scholarly comment on a book, poem, writer, or issue every day of the year, weekends and holidays included. However, he hasn’t written much all week. But here are a few thoughts he has somehow transmitted:

Wednesday, August 30, 2017 Dispatch from Houston IV
We have sunshine, blue skies and a modest breeze. The first hummingbird of the season visited this morning, briefly. The pavement is dry again. Still no power but with the generator, we have a functioning refrigerator.

"Tell me, Apollo, tell me where
The sunbeams go, when they do disappear."

Tuesday, August 29, 2017 Dispatch from Houston III
The joy of coffee and dry clothing; friends with gasoline-powered generators and mechanical know-how; books crisp on the shelves.

"Grief is a puddle, and reflects not clear
Your beauty's rays.
Joys are pure streams."

Monday, August 28, 2017 Dispatch from Houston II
"Sometime the flood prevails, and then the wind;
Now one the better, then another best;
Both tugging to be victors, breast to breast,
Yet neither conqueror nor conquered."

Sunday, August 27, 2017 Dispatch from Houston
Power out. Car flooded. Books dry.

I listen to the Governor calmly describing the situation, the mayor justifying his decision not to evacuate, the President making the most of it.

People say they have lost everything, their homes, their furniture, possessions, their car(s), everything. What are they to do? Where can they possible go? Imagine yourself in this situation.

Is a tragedy necessary to bring us together? It seems the only way now.


Linda said...

It is horrific! I cannot imagine the misery. And now that the storm is over, people are dealing with snakes, alligators, fire ants, and raw sewage in the flood waters, not to mention man-caused chemical explosions and pollutions. It is too much to bear.

And then I read about the local and federal politicians' deliberate failure to regulate developers, oil refiners, and chemical manufacturers, which makes a disaster like Houston so much worse, and it makes me furious. But nothing will change. The people will continue to reap the political whirlwind.

Richard Katzev said...

Change. Why is it so difficult? Is the "human project," as Ian McEwan called it, a failure or about to be one? It seems that way at times like this.