Humanity perceives water as the substance of life, the most important liquid in the world: after all, it is a part of every human body, and the Earth is called ‘the blue planet’ for a particular reason. In the earliest childhood, we get acquainted with the water as the basic need of any human. Later we discover that it can also fall from heavens, hum in the oceans, splash in the puddles when we walk over them. Some people are lucky and have never faced the rage of the water. Some, however, have to meet their temper and flee or yield to it.
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It may not be surprising that Houston was flooded since it is located in the wetlands that have been dried for years now. However, when you see the cars, abandoned in an unnamed river that appeared in the middle of the road, or notice the ‘high water’ signs floating by to an unknown destination, you realize how vulnerable and defenseless people are against the high waters. The water sweeps houses, and cars destroy roofs and break trees in half, floods, parks, and highways. It is everywhere, its ruthlessness never stops, it knocks down everything that stands in the way. When the rain stops, the water surface calmly reflects the ruins it has caused. High waters win, no matter how desperately the humanity tries to fight.
The fact that it is not the first and the last flooding in Houston does not bring any relief. In 1929, Houston was extensively flooded, and the citizens were afraid it would not be able to recover after such floods (Sipes and Zeve 40). Heavy rains had caused floods before; the area where Houston was founded did not appear to be very promising for a modern city (Melosi and Pratt 22) (Zevenbergen et al. 249). Looking at the skyscrapers of Houston, at its busy highways and noisy streets, it seems unnatural that this city could suffer from the floods that much. Yet here it stands, vanquished.
The People and the Floods
Some children ride their bikes; the water splits in half under the wheels and foams. One of the children falls from the bicycle, the others laugh, while the parents examine their house with the tears in their eyes. The big, once snow-white house is covered in marks and flecks. The walls are soggy and sloppy. Garden utensils float around, but it seems that nobody is paying attention to them. The time has stopped, at least for this family and thousands of other families who lost everything: their houses, their cars, their property (Aslam and Kamal 89). But this is not the worst gift the water brings. New names appear on the news: some of them sound familiar, some not, but the horror that grasps you every time you hear the names is inevitable. While this family mourns their home, the other one mourns their children, their brother or sister, their wife or husband.
The label ‘missing’ gives hope, often false, but they never abandon it, because there was not any statement on the death of the missing, so he or she still might be alive, somewhere, somehow. In a hospital, in a stranger’s house, in a friend’s apartment. You sometimes see them talking to the police: their hands are shaking, or they might be still, even firm; they avoid any eye contact, or their eyes are fixed on the police officer, desperate for new information. They barely leave the house (if their house is not ruined), but if you accidently meet them on the streets, they will talk about the missing in the present tense, although you use the past. Eventually, some of them decide to leave the city: their house is filled with silence and darkness, the empty windows glare with the light of the sunrise, the garden seems desolated. Even if they stay, the house and its owner seem stranded, as if the floods never went away and the house kept floating in an ocean of a hopeless waiting.
The New Life
For some, the floods leave no other options and force them to move out of the city. The row of cars is waiting for anyone who needs evacuation: people walk past, offer to help, rush to one another, talk to parents and comfort the children. The reports might not cover the consequences of the floods fully, but it does not seem significant now (Cook 61). Families, sometimes three or four, pack everything that the flood had spared: mothers or dads examine the boxes, nod or shake heads, and pull some of the boxes to the trash bins if they were not swept by the water. Distant talk on the phone echoes through the driveway, somewhere a girl suddenly begins to laugh, and you smile, despite the stress and weariness. First of all, the children need to understand that the floods will not come seeking for them again: the floods do not seek and revenge, they simply exist (Fink 748). The sun has set, and the stars shine gently, promising a new beginning. The high waters are gone.
Aslam, Naeem and Anila Kamal. “Gender Difference in Distress Responses, Rumination Patterns, Perceived Social Support and Posttraumatic Growth Among Flood Affected Individuals.”Journal of Pakistan Psychiatric Society 10.2 (2013): 86-90. Print.
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Cook, Bernie. Flood of Images: Media, Memory, and Hurricane Katrina, Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2015. Print.
Fink, George. Stress of War, Conflict and Disaster, Oxford, England: Academic Press, 2011. Print.
Melosi, Martin, and Joseph A. Pratt. Energy Metropolis: An Environmental History of Houston and the Gulf Coast, Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh, 2014. Print.
Sipes, James, and Matthew Zeve. The Bayous of Houston, Mount Pleasant, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2012. Print.
Zevenbergen, Chris, Adrian Cashman, Niki Evelpidou, Erik Pasche, Stephen Garvin and Richard Ashley. Urban Flood Management. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2010. Print.