Sunday, September 03, 2017

Harvey Work Crews

Today's crew had a much easier day. We were sent to two homes, both of whom had already removed their soaked carpet. 
The first house was another couple in their 70's but they had family who had been helping them with cleanup for 3 days. No raw sewage anymore - thankfully. They needed help getting things in boxes and removed from rooms so they could remove drywall. The owner asked me to pack up her dresser. As I lowered her underwear and socks into boxes, I felt so bad for her having strangers handling her intimate things. Other drawers were filled with momentos from her children and from her years as a school teacher. I was so glad for her that the water had not reached the drawers and they were safe and dry. 
As we help people, one thing is always the same. They are often at a loss about what to do. They're a bit dazed and doing their best to just put one foot in front of another. And one thing that always amazes me is that they don't complain. They tell me stories about certain items. "This was my mother's porcelain powder dish..." Or "These were my parents' Russian hymnals." "Please don't throw that dish away--it was my grandmother's." One had a piece of Chinese furniture she had purchased on a trip to China and had shipped home. She was hoping it could be saved because it was teak wood. 
I think the saddest sight has been pouring water out of the photo albums of the lady who had 5 feet of water in her house. She had shelves of photo albums and all but a few at the tops were completely saturated. All of her son's baby pictures. Pictures of trips she had taken. It was so heartbreaking. She just stood there in the room looking at them helplessly. We helped her carry them outdoors but I don't think any of them will be able to be saved. Now that we have digital files, make backups and put them in different places. I hear people saying, "Stuff can be replaced. Pictures cannot." This same lady had also done a lot of ancestry research which was apparently all on paper. I didn't see a computer in her home. She mentioned several times that now all her research was gone. 
Our second house was a young Chinese family with a baby and a 3 year old. Their house was a year old and only got an inch of water. Still....ick. The mom was totally stressed out tho and left for a hotel with the children. It was a good thing because the house got very dusty once sheet rock started to be cut and removed. 
This is definitely the hardest on those with small children and on the elderly. I have seen so many messages on social media asking for help for families who have lost everything and the mother has just had a baby or is about to have a baby. Can you imagine?
Despite the trauma, many Texans are expressing how much they love seeing the kindness toward others and how they wish it could always be this way. 
Maybe it can.
 Let's do this, crew!
 Packing up 
 Jeff removing flooring
 and more flooring...
 Zoey learned to use a crowbar like a boss!
 Sheet rock, insulation and flooring out but the smell of mold was still overpowering.
 The never-ending piles of garbage
Most of the donations that are coming into the church are going out quickly but we o have shelves started indoors.  We are supposed to get heavy rains on Tue so things need to start being stored indoors.  Its also a bit easier for families to 'shop' for the things that they need in the a/c.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Hurricane Harvey

We currently live in the Houston area and I have been posting updates on Facebook about the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.  Our family was not flooded so we are trying to help those who are suffering around us.  It just occurred to me that I could be posting the Facebook posts here too, in case anyone is wanting to know what is going on here beyond what you can see on the news.  

This was yesterday's post.

I've never done anything as gross as I did today. And I've done some pretty gross things. 
I truly cannot imagine what it must be like to see your memories covered in muddy fecal water. 
Driving through neighborhoods with street after street lined with years of memories brings an instant lump to your throat. Once you walk up to a home the smell is the first thing to assault your nose. We will never forget the smell. Ever. 
The first house belonged to a couple who was in their 80's. They had lived there for 40 years. They were so sweet. The wife had a stroke about a year ago and now a flood. The water got about 2 feet high in their house. A crew from our church was there yesterday so we just had to finish up. We poured water out of lower cabinet items and had to throw most of it away. Anything plastic or porous is unsalvageable. 
Honestly, I wouldn't be able to eat off of anything that had been in that water. There just isn't enough bleach in the world....
On the way to the second house we drove through some hard hit areas and were in awe at how high the water had gotten. A small creek had swollen into a river that seemed as wide as the Mississippi. It was incredible. And the power of the bent fences and broke down brick walls. 
The second house was much worse. The water had gotten about 5 feet high inside. We were the first ones there and the stench was worse because mold had started to grow. A lady probably in her late 70's or early 80's lived there with her cat. She had a lot of magazines and cookbooks which were so soaked that they sometimes fell apart as we tried to lift them. I had kitchen duty and emptied pots, pans, and any containers in the lower cabinets. I dumped the sewage water as carefully as I could but it sometimes splashed on me. Gag! One big splash went down the front of me and into my rain boot. Is there enough bleach for that?! The kids were such troopers. They lugged soaking wet carpet, furniture---whatever necessary. At one point Jake said to me, "Mom, I stink." If boys think they stink... 😂
The second lady had a grand piano which was so special to her. It was completely ruined. It had to be broken into pieces to get it to the street because it was so heavy. She started to watch the demo and I sent her back inside. Some things are just too hard to watch. 
Bless her heart, she wanted to keep her pots and pans, silverware and glass items. But she has no idea where she is going to clean them. And there enough bleach? 😳
We put our shoes and boots on plastic bags in the back of the car, sat on plastic bags and had to keep the windows down to breathe on the drive home. 
If our stuff smells that bad I truly cannot imagine that anything that flood waters touched can be cleaned. 
Jeff and Jillian will be going out on a crew with us tomorrow. Kate and SaraGrace are a bit sad that they can't help but with their heart conditions they cannot be around all that bacteria.
Soggy piles of people's memories
A view of the street.  Every street in this neighborhood looks like this.
My team
This was the owner of the first house thanking the kids for coming.  After this, he invited them back inside to chose a hat from his collection.
 Kind of hard to see but the fence is bent over and covered with debris.
Brick wall broken down.  It went on like this for over and block...just piles of bricks

Entering another neighborhood
 Jordan's feet at the end of the day.  This was after using Clorox wipes.  Ick.
Something I have already grown to love about Texans is their spirit.  There has been no complaining.  No hand writing.  Sadness and grief, yes.  A numb disbelief, yes.  But the victims are able to try to pull themselves together while church groups, friends and neighbors come, roll up their sleeves and just get things done.  We saw several homes with their belongings piled outside but their American and Texas flags still proudly waving.