by Eileen Kilchrist
August 27, 2017 is a date that will always be remembered.
My husband Joe and I struggled with Hurricane Harvey and 60 plus inches of rain that flooded 70% of the homes and businesses in Houston, Texas. Now, those memories are yet again flooding our minds as we watched Hurricane Dorian destroy the Bahamas on September 1, 2019.
On the early morning of August 27th, we tucked ourselves in bed upstairs at 1:00 am after checking the banks of Houston’s Buffalo Bayou. The water level, at that time, was well within its banks. We awoke a few hours later to the sounds of water and at 5:10 am we went downstairs to find water coming into the house under the back door. I hurried to call our aging neighbors to wake them up and tell them to start moving their belongings upstairs.
We moved some of our important files from the office to the second floor, along with lamps, put rugs on the furniture and piled as much as we could on the family room shelves upstairs.
Joe turned off the electricity, we piled into his truck and drove through the rising waters to safety on higher ground. Joe and I walked out of the house with my medications, two changes of clothes, one pair of tennis shoes and pajamas. We checked into a nearby hotel and booked five rooms for ourselves, and neighbors, just in case they also needed a place. All five rooms were used.
We went back in the afternoon to check on our house and to find that the water had receded somewhat, so we swept some of the remaining water outside. We thought that everything would be OK, but in the middle of the night the Corp of Engineers lowered the floodgates and we received about five feet of black sewer water (we were downstream of the Turkey Creek Sewage Plant) inside the house and six feet in the garage and those waters stood there for 15 days.
Our first floor and garage were completely wiped out. Windows were cracked…the house was pushed off its foundation and the hardwood floors buckled four feet high!
The Cajun Navy and total strangers with boats helped us go back to our houses to see what we could retrieve. A wonderful gentleman with his boat, motored us up to our second story balcony where we climbed over the railing, broke the glass on the door and broke into our own house. We carted away more essentials — especially legal documents. It was like an assembly line with people going into the neighborhood in powered boats to get their stuff and then going back to dry land.
My brother and his friends, along with Team Rubicon helped take the first story of our house and garage down to the studs. It was an awful mess!
Reporter Scott Pelley and the film crew of 60 Minutes came by. They filmed and interviewed Joe as this was going on.
One story I would like to share is that I couldn’t find my cherished jewelry and after many times searching for it, I heard the voice from God telling me that my jewelry was in my daughter’s bathroom tucked away in the linens. And, there it was, my bundle of jewelry!
I met incredible and generous people, some who were complete strangers. They fed us and helped us in every way they could.
We decided to sell our property rather than try to rebuild and moved to San Antonio to live closer to our daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren.
Joe put it all into perspective when a stranger was volunteering to help him move our demolished furniture to what was becoming a mountain at our curbside. The man said, “I am so sorry you and your wife are going through this.” Joe replied, “There are thousands of people in this world who would be both happy and feel lucky to be in our shoes and have the circumstances we are in. This, too, shall pass.”
There are so many more stories I could share about this experience, but I don’t like to look back but only look forward.
So please show your love for the Bahiam people and help them with a charitable donation. Team Rubicon is our chosen charity – we experienced their unconditional service and kindness first hand.
Eileen was born in Ponca City, OK and came from a family of three brothers and two sisters. She lived in six different cities growing up because her dad worked for an oil company.
Eileen married Joseph, her sweetheart, in Houston and they had one beautiful daughter. Now, they are blessed with two precious grandchildren. She has a degree in business and marketing and has had several different careers during her lifetime such as working for an airline, education, and working for an interior designer.
She has loved all her jobs and is now enjoying retirement, traveling and babysitting her grandkiddos!!!