Underwater: A Reflection on Harvey, Charlottesville and America

I turned on the news and my home was underwater. Drowning.

I was just back in Houston for a visit in May. It was still true: everything in Texas is bigger, even bigger than you remember, especially after you’ve been away a while.

The endless blue sky, clasping tight to the soaring tops of the Houston skyline that provoked dumbfounded awe during my fourth grade class field trip to the Federal Reserve.

Katy Freeway, where I learned how to drive my first car in the 10th grade, stretches 14 lanes across, linking me to the over 10,000 square miles that comprises the greater Houston area.

The fourth largest city in the United States and home to over 6 million people, the Houston metropolitan area is larger than the entire state of New Jersey.

Indeed, perhaps my favorite thing about the vastness of Houston is the vibrant diversity of her people, cultivated by her wide open doors.

Houston took in a quarter of a million evacuees after Hurricane Katrina and accepts 23 out of every 1,000 refugees resettled by the United Nations worldwide, more than any other American city and more than many countries.

I was lucky enough to grow up in a big, beautiful, and lively city of cultural multitudes.

I turned on the news and my home was underwater. Drowning. How did this happen?

Harvey made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane on Aug. 25, unloading 27 trillion gallons of water over the following six days.

That’s enough water to completely fill the Houston Astrodome more than 86,000 times. Enough to blanket the entire state of Arizona in over a foot of water. Enough to sustain the flow over Niagara Falls for 405 days.

It seems insurmountable, impossible, unfathomable. A disaster of titanic proportions.

I turned on the news and my home was underwater. Drowning. What did Houston do next?

We came together. Race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, political party, religion… it didn’t matter. We got organized. We rose to the challenge.

We definitely didn’t ask for this and we certainly never thought it would come to this. Nevertheless, we rebuilt.

We did what we had to do to rescue our brothers and sisters. To repair the damage. To open our doors wide once again.

Our home was underwater. Drowning.

As Harvey pummeled through Houston, I turned on the news and I felt sick to my stomach. Underneath all of the soaking wet destruction, my home was almost unrecognizable.

It wasn’t the first time I had that feeling this month. Instantly, I was brought back to just a few weeks prior in the wake of the events in Charlottesville.

I turned on the news and America was underwater. Drowning. Almost unrecognizable.

What do we do next?

We come together. Race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, political party, religion… it doesn’t matter. We get organized. We rise to the challenge.

We definitely didn’t ask for this and we certainly never thought it would come to this. Nevertheless, we rebuild.

We do what we have to do to rescue our brothers and sisters. To repair the damage. To open our doors wide once again. Our home is underwater, and we’re gonna save her.

Francesca Aloisio is a fourth-year Biomedical Sciences PhD student.