Finding Strength After the Storm

Editor’s note: Babette Moreno, a reader for ACUE’s course, shares her inspiring story about facing the devastation of Hurricane Harvey.

It is rare I would use words like “devastating” or “catastrophic” to describe anything in my life, but over the past two weeks I have seen and experienced what these words really mean. Like many Houstonians, I heard warnings from the news about Harvey but thought, “Not me. I’ve never flooded.” In fact, I added HBO to my cable lineup so I could finally catch up on Game of Thrones. Although initially I thought the news had overdramatized the storm, by early Sunday I saw the park across the street begin to fill with water and a small pool forming in my driveway. I packed a few suitcases and filled a backpack with my passport and laptop. I slept upstairs on Sunday, and when I woke up the next morning, I was met with a surreal scene. The water surrounded my house, basically leaving me on an island.

I sat on the bed upstairs thinking, “Okay, now what?” At that moment, I heard a banging on my door and assumed the coast guard was there to evacuate me. Instead, it was one of my neighbors (whom I had never met) coming to get me out of the house. I grabbed my backpack, my husband’s naturalization papers, and—for some reason—a big can of bug spray before leaving my house and all that I owned. It wasn’t until the following day that I was able to return to my home, which was completely flooded on the first floor.

Never before have I experienced the outreach of hope and support that I saw that day and continue to see throughout Houston. My neighbors, most of whom I met for the first time, brought brooms, sheetrock cutters, fans, and anything else that would help with the cleanup. Total strangers have come by to drop off meals, tools, and cleaning supplies and lend able hands to our labor. As unfortunate as this experience has been, and continues to be, the outpouring of support and kindness makes me so proud to be a Houstonian and confident we will get through this together (though I do look forward to having walls and doors again on my first floor).

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, I have been determined to keep up with my work to maintain a sense of normalcy. As a national reader for ACUE’s course, I hold a position that requires me to read participants’ end-of-module reflections and provide quality feedback within 48 hours. This semester, I’m reading about 50 reflections per week from course-takers nationwide who may or may not have been affected by Harvey. I chose to continue reading reflections during this time because it is one of the only “normal” things I can do. Each evening, after resetting the fans and checking the progress of the drying wood in my home, I sit down to read about how educators across the country are faring in their classrooms as they implement new teaching practices and report on the positive outcomes they observe with their students. As an educator myself, I feel so connected to these colleagues from different colleges and universities, especially now as they start the semester during a time when so many are trying to recover from Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma.

As we begin to move forward here in Houston, my thoughts and prayers go out to those who are struggling in the aftermath of these two major hurricanes. For those who are part of college and university communities that were impacted, I know you will overcome and be a great source of strength and encouragement for your students. For those who live in states that were not directly affected, know that we appreciate every call and email of encouragement. Together, we can rebuild.

To contribute to the Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma relief efforts, visit the One America Appeal website.

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