In the south, we learn to make summer vacations toward the start of summer. As a child, I always associated the start of summer with a family vacation. At the time, I figured it was because June is the month of birthdays: mine and my siblings, as well as my mom’s – and certainly, that was part of the reason. Only later did I think to connect the timing with hurricane season. Louisianians know all too well how deadly the tail end of the season can be.
Trying to explain the anxiety and fear that even the slightest formation in the Atlantic causes to those in the Gulf Coastal region to some who have never experienced a hurricane firsthand is difficult. Our reading of the possibilities is of disaster: the track headed straight to our homes. Their reading is quite different: it’s too soon to start worrying; the storm could fizzle out or end up going somewhere else.
What gets lost in translation are the images of hurricane destruction – images that seem to get passed down generation by generation.
Our Texas neighbors experienced Harvey; we experienced Katrina; our grandparents and great-grandparents experienced Betsy and Camille. What gets lost are the memories.
My great-grandparents added the prayer to Our Lady of Prompt Succor to their daily devotions at the start of hurricane season. Faithfully, they prayed, imploring Our Lady to provide help and succor. The prayer card now gets tucked in with my mom’s stack of morning prayers, passed on to my sister after my mom has finished.
As Harvey lashed out against Houston and its surrounding areas, I was drawn back to the days of anxiety prior, during and after Katrina. I dreamt of my parents deciding to evacuate at the last minute; my brother setting statues and rosaries in the windows and across the doors. As I saw images of Harvey’s destruction on the news and the number of people trapped in their homes – particularly the image of the elderly trapped in their residences – my heart broke, but my mind remembered.
The frantic and tear-stained face of my mom trying to get in touch with our grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-aunt – all who had stayed behind. The rush of relief when we finally learned they had been airlifted to safety.
Here in St. Louis, help and support for Houston are spread across the city. But the common question on everyone’s lips and minds after seeing the flooding and devastation is whether the city can come back. It’s an all-too- familiar question. When I’ve heard colleagues and friends talking, and when the question gets asked, I’ve answered with a resounding yes. The resilience of community – the drive to return home and to normalcy – is not something that can be ignored. What we forget – what I forget all too often – is that in the face of disaster, people come together. They cling to what they have left: the people surrounding them. They cling to their faith, trusting that in their hour of need, God will provide.
We’re nearing the end of hurricane season, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to hang in the towel. The days ahead are hot and long; the waters in the Gulf continue to provide fuel for the storms. Our Lady of Prompt Succor, hasten to help us.
Dr. Heather Bozant Witcher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.