HOUSTON (AP) — Harvey did not discriminate in its destruction.
It raged through neighborhoods rich and poor, Black and White, upscale and working class. Across Houston and surrounding communities, no group sidestepped its paralyzing deluges and apocalyptic floods.
“Harvey didn’t spare anyone: The whole city is traumatized,” said Lynnette Borrel, whose backyard pool filled with murky water and schools of minnows from Brays Bayou on the city’s southwest side not far from downtown.
The poor tend to suffer most in disasters. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the world was left with nightmarish images of residents of New Orleans’ impoverished Lower Ninth Ward, screaming for help from their rooftops. That storm, which claimed 1,800 lives, stands as a prime example of urban inequality and environmental injustice.
But in this moment, as the waters begin to recede, Houston residents of all colors and socio-economic statuses find themselves united in their loss, their despair — and their resilience.
Lois Rose, a 55-year-old school teacher in northwest Houston, knew she had to leave her home in the east when the rising floodwater in her living room began lapping at her calves. Outside, it nearly reached her neck. She and her panicked neighbors formed a human chain, battling against the push of brown water and powerful currents to make their way to a gas station on higher ground. Frightened and shivering, they waited in the dark and in 3 feet of water for seven hours before they were rescued.
“Every nationality you could see was in the George R. Brown Convention Center,” she said. “Harvey hit everywhere. It’s not just one section of Houston where people were displaced. It’s everywhere, from southwest to northwest, southeast to northeast. It hit the lowest-income areas to the richest. It just didn’t stop. This was just different. It’s going to take years to recover from this.”
Her eyes were glassy when she spotted the topper to her wedding cake in the corner, soaked through.
“Part of me wants to cry,” she said. “The other part of me knows I need to pull myself up.”
Down the block, welder Ivy Anderson also came home to find his house and belongings destroyed. As the storm raged, he’d carried his mother on his back through the treacherous flood, and watched his home fill up with water he knew would cause horrible damage. The house had flooded during Tropical Storm Allison in 2001, but he had flood insurance back then. Not this time.
Twenty-two miles away, in the Meyerland neighborhood of quiet, leafy streets, Barron Lazano picked through her own wreckage. Flood insurance is required to get a mortgage in Meyerland, she said, and it’s been an invaluable safety net.
“We thought if we got 3 feet, we’d be OK,” she said. They weren’t OK. They got more than 4.
Outside her home, its insides were piled high: new chairs, a new couch, a top-of-the-line refrigerator, just purchased.
“We just don’t know what we’re going to do,” she said, pausing to take stock. “The scale of this is absolutely unbelievable: It’s hard for us, but it’s harder to look around and see that everybody else has flooded, too. Insurance is huge — we wouldn’t be able to rebuild it if we didn’t —but we don’t know if we want to go through this again.”
Patricia Hahn, an administrator for a dialysis company, sat in the back of a pickup truck in her driveway. Beside her were plastic bins and boxes, filled with whatever she could salvage from inside — books and DVDs, photographs, odds and ends in plastic bags.
The pile was modest, compared to her refuse. Her wardrobe. A pair of brand new Laz-E Boy recliners she’d ordered back in 2016, delivered just two months before the storm; she’d even kept them wrapped in plastic. A green couch that had belonged to her husband, Curtiss. He died three years ago on Nov. 8, the couple’s shared birthday. She hung her head and quietly cried.
“This has been a hard reset for me,” she said through tears. “It’s always been hard for me to go through his stuff. Now it’s gone.”
“I, more or less, have lost everything,” she said. “But I have to face up to my challenges.”
She doesn’t have flood insurance, but is determined to recover. Houston will too, she said.
“This storm affected the poor, the rich, and those in the middle,” she said, “but our Texans, our community, we’re going to do whatever it takes.”
AP data journalist Angeliki Kastanis contributed to this report.