When I was thirteen years old, the power in our neighborhood went out for four days. It was ninety degrees out and our air conditioning was not working. Thankfully, we were able to head to the library during the day and, if the power was to be out for longer, we had to means to pay for a couple nights in a hotel. The conditions were not ideal, but I have fond memories of going to movie theaters and getting creative about cooking and staying cool.
At the age of eighteen, I was asked several times to go on an alternative winter break trip to Texas. I initially said no because I wanted to spend more time with my dog (and my family), I had vowed to never go to the state of Texas (for political reasons), and I did not feel like driving in a car for fourteen hours. My mind was set for about two months before I spontaneously decided to go. Thank god I did, because if I was not here right now, writing this blog, I would be watching TV and wasting away a week of my life.
The natural disaster that hit here in San Marcos and all over the rest of Texas is unfathomable. Houses surrounding the many rivers that flow through town were devastated. This was not a half inch of water. Houses and businesses over a hundred feet away from the rivers, or even a hundred feet above the rivers, were filled with mucky river water up to the roof. Coin collections, hard drives with baby pictures, hand built furniture, and family heirlooms were all lost to the flood. According to survivor stories, people were screaming from the windows of their houses as they floated down the river. A flood has a different meaning here and it is nothing like the one in the story of Noah’s Ark, the archetypical story thought of when imagining a flood.
Before I left for this trip, my parents asked why a people would want to rebuild in place that continuously floods. Once you’ve been in this place for a couple days, you can see why these people don’t want to leave. For one, it’s beautiful here. And no one wants to leave the place his or her family has been living happily for generations. No one wants to leave a place where everyone in their community is rooting for them. No one wants to completely uproot just because of some water (it was not just some water here, but that’s besides the point).
This flood did not wipe out the people here. In fact, it has probably made them stronger. And their community does not just come from San Marcos. The JDRC (Jewish Disaster Response Corps) along with the Hillels from San Francisco State and Illinois teamed up to help the citizens of this special place to rebuild. Along the way, we met many people with the same hope for the future of San Marcos. I was so lucky to go on this trip because it opened my eyes to what a flood can really do and how a community can react to it. I’m young and haven’t seen too much of the world, so coming here was a great way to put everything into perspective. This flood will probably not bring back fun memories of rollerblading in the basement and the destruction it caused will not be resolved in a couple months. The people in this town, as well as the rest of the nation will have to work hard to rebuild. This will not come easy and I hope that my one week here will have made a tiny difference in the lives of the people here. When I go back to my university bubble of homework and Hillel events next week, I’ll have the memory of tiling the floor of Miss Eva to remind me that I’m working hard for all of our futures.