This is the second installment in the “Unprecedented” story series, telling the stories of Harvey through the people of Clear Creek Community Church. To learn more about the series, read the introduction here.
“My life is in that pile.”
Wendy Starnes surveyed her front yard. Only a week after Hurricane Harvey had dumped six feet of water into her new home, she sat on the driveway, surrounded by the ruined possessions that lay all around her.
“I’m a quilter. I lost everything… there’s a quilt over there that I made for my husband before he died, and I can’t fix it. It’s stuff, but it means a lot. It’s memories that you can’t ever get back.”
After losing his battle with cancer in 2016, Wendy’s husband died just before she moved into her house in Dickinson.
“Didn’t have to have flood insurance they said, so I didn’t buy any. Everything’s gone.”
On the night that Harvey hit her home in force, Wendy woke up around 1:30 a.m. to water covering her living room carpet.
She sat on her dining room table with her German Shepherd and waited for the water to recede, but it only continued to rise. Once it reached the table, she grabbed some towels and blankets and retreated to the attic amid the sound of rescue helicopters all around her.
“I kept hearing helicopters, I kept hearing them tell us to get on the roof, but I couldn’t get on the roof if I wanted to.”
Once daylight struck, Wendy moved outside to be more visible for the rescue crews, and was picked up by boat and taken to a nearby church.
When the flooding finally subsided, six feet of water sat in Wendy’s house, but she was safe for the time being. The more pressing concern was finding her father, who lived nearby in Sherwood Oaks. After evacuating from the church among the still-rising water with her son, she received word that her father was safe in Santa Fe. Her co-worker and friend Kim then opened her doors to Wendy’s family, and they piled in for several days.
“At one point we had five dogs, five kids, and four adults who weren’t sure how they were supposed to act with all that, but that’s what we did.”
Upon returning to her home on Friday, Sept. 1, Wendy saw for the first time the devastation that Harvey had brought to her neighborhood. By the time all the damaged possessions had been removed, Wendy’s home almost looked like a house that had not yet been built. Concrete floors, wooden slats, and a fraction of the sheetrock that escaped damage were all that remained of the building she had moved into barely a year ago.
But even amid the pain of losing everything she owned, hope still shined through.
“One of the teachers I work with apparently attends your church and sent me the form and said ‘fill this out’ and I went ‘okay!’… I’ve had people from the school and people from [Clear Creek Community Church] and people from my church… it’s just been crazy… It’s been a blessing.”
After learning of Wendy’s home, the volunteers also went to her father’s home, and even now continue to rebuild what’s been lost.
And so much has been lost. But even through the storm, or perhaps because of it, Wendy has gained perspective.
“Every day I wake up and I just shake my head. I know that this is stuff. If it’s able to be saved, that’s great. If not, it’s stuff. I’m OK, my dog’s OK, everybody I know is OK, and that’s all that matters.”