Galveston

Yikes … It’s Hurricane Ike!

Yikes … It’s Hurricane Ike!

By Monette Benoit

Copyright by Monette Benoit, All Rights Reserved.

Galveston’s history has a personal interest. In 1900 my maternal grandmother’s family walked 500 miles from Gilmer, Texas, to Corpus Christi, Texas, with livestock, farm equipment and four covered wagons.

My grandmother’s father, Adolphus D. Floyd, twice a 7th Regiment Texas Infantry Civil War Prisoner of War, POW, struck oil in Gilmer. Post-war, he studied “the best soil in Texas to grow cotton.” Then Adolphus saved $99.00 for the family relocation. After their move to Corpus Christi, my family planned a large Galveston family reunion.

September 8, 1900 a Category 4 hurricane hit Galveston, Texas. An entire “branch” of my grandmother’s family was swept off a hotel roof. Reports estimate 6,000 men, women and children perished.

Had the hurricane struck two days later, my grandmother, Monette Rae Floyd, her father, mother Marjorie Howard Floyd, nine siblings and four “extras” (as they were called), white and black children, would have been in Galveston for their family reunion.

Monette Floyd was a four-year old piano prodigy. Later, she became the first music teacher in Corpus volunteering her time in the schools. Later, she had her own orchestra. Later, she worked as a Corpus court stenographer. Siblings and “extras” not in Galveston that day in 1900, later built a life knowing ‘what might have been’.

I grew up listening to detailed history of Galveston, Texas coastal storms and the phrase, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

Sheryl Stapp, CSR, RPR earned her certifications in 1998. She has worked as adjunct professor, Del Mar College, and as an official in Corpus and Sinton, Texas. Currently, Sheryl lives in Houston working as a freelance deputy official. I asked Sheryl to share her story.

September 11, 2008, weathermen asked, “Where will Ike land?” Corpus Christi, my hometown, was targeted. I’ve been in Houston since 2003; I return every few months. My best friend, Diane, whom I met in seventh grade, lives there. I’ve been playing bunco with girlfriends, true treasures, since 1995.

I called Corpus friends, “Come to Houston. Run like a rabbit,” as I was raised to do if a hurricane headed your way! Soon they phoned, “Get out of Houston. Come home!” We were not in mandatory evacuation; we stayed put.

On Friday, September 12, 2008: My parents, roommates, Fletcher and Elaine, were nervous. Near 10:30 a.m. precious Mama had “that funny feeling.” I gave her Advil and tucked her in. Daddy and I put plywood over the patio doors. Soon I heard, “I can’t breathe.” I called 911 praying, “Please, Lord, not yet.” The ambulance arrived in 15 minutes; paramedics put her on oxygen. Again I said, “You’ll be fine, Mama. I’m following right behind.”

The hospital was preparing for lockdown during Hurricane Ike. The emergency room staff worked with ice chests, blankets, sleeping bags and radios. Three crews were staying through Monday.

Mom was intubated and sedated. I headed to the chapel. Then came the really hard part – leaving. Lockdown meant only emergency vehicles in or out. Daddy left his “child bride” (they married in 1955 at 22 and 23 years of age). Talk about tough.

We returned home. Meteorologists had Hurricane Ike down to a science. Ike would blow in 10:00 p.m. and depart the Magnolia City early morning. Rain and wind pounded all night.

I arose at 8:00 a.m. There was no wind, rain or flooding, and there was no phone, TV or Internet. Dad and I walked the house. No broken windows, shingles. We had been spared.

True Texans, neighbors, barbecued freezer meats, and it was the Saturday Night Live Happy Hurricane Party! We had flashlights inside and lanterns outside; ice chests held beer and sodas.

Battery-operated radios shocked us with Galveston’s devastation only an hour away. Pictures in the Houston Chronicle were unfathomable: A Category 2 landfall annihilated that historical coastal town.

Initially, one generator powered four houses. We needed the generator for Dad’s continuous positive airway pressure (C-Pap) machine, so we made the purchase. I’m a city girl. There I was with my 76-year old father, 100-degree heat, reading the manual to assemble this generator! Later, I felt I could do this! We wheeled the generator onto the porch. I realized, again, how little I knew. That generator was loud! It sounded like an 18-wheeler!

I was thankful because that noise ensured I’d hear Dad’s C-Pap machine. I’d listen and think, “Thank you, Lord. Daddy’s lungs need it.”

I thought I’d lose weight since I couldn’t cook, right? Wrong! Everyone asked, “Do you have food? Need something to eat?” One Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Point of Distribution (POD) volunteer went house to house, gifting Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) water, cookies and non-perishables!

It was humbling to walk into the courthouse with wet hair (no hairdryer), wrinkled slacks and shirts (no iron), no make-up (you cannot apply makeup by flashlight)! I was not alone. We all laughed, “This is not a problem. We are so fortunate.”

One lady shared she worked with a Galveston court reporter who had e-mailed everything to her scopist. Even when natural disasters strike, court reporters get the job done! Our technology has come so far and it continues to keep us on our game, on the cutting edge.

My friend, Monette Benoit, called. She caught me at the library checking e-mail – after waiting an hour! Once assured that Mom, Dad and I were okay, she shared her view of captioning Hurricane Ike from a local, national vantage point. Monette always reminds me what we do is unique, an in-demand skill. It’s life-affirming to know court reporters and broadcast captioners are helping deaf and HOH every day. My mantra during our conversation: “I love court reporting!”

Daily, we called the intensive care unit, ICU, to check on mom; she was improving. Mom’s our glue; she raised five children in the 1970s on a schoolteacher and construction materials salesman’s salaries.

On Monday, Mom thought it was Friday! She’d been sedated for four days. While Houston was without water, TV, air conditioning, she had comforts. Hospital staff was good to Dad. He’d get a hot meal each time Mom did; they filled his ice chest before he departed the hospital.

Mom came home two weeks later; we still had no power. The respiratory company brought the oxygen machine. At 4 a.m. on Saturday, our generator ran out of gas. I’ll never forget going to check it, flashlight in hand. Daddy, with C-Pap tube dangling from his headpiece, brought the gas cans. He looked like Snuffleupagus! I thought, “Lord, let us get this cranked up so Mom gets oxygen and her Texas-sized heart can keep on ticking!!” After a few stops/starts it was fine. Twenty-four hours after Mom’s return home, here come trucks down our street.

A light switch that turns on one lamp becomes a treasure.

My personal Hurricane Ike experience was humbling: Stress riding it out, leaving Mom, watching Dad feeling lost and anxious without her. After Ike arrived and left, it was the daily hassles of draining and refilling ice chests, visiting the ICU in staggered hours, sitting in lines at the gas stations, filling generator tanks and having no air conditioning (just plain brutal!). I always said, “I can’t complain. We were fortunate. Mom was in the best place she could be; our home is intact; friends and family are safe.”

Galveston’s stories put everything in perspective. I was reminded of Daddy saying, “I complained because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” I’m so grateful, realizing how blessed I am.

You boost my self-esteem, Monette. I tell my little Ike story and think, “Who cares?” You hear my Ike story and think, “Great story! Let’s share.”

I’ve not mentioned this article to my parents because it’s about them, not me. I’m going to frame it and gift it as a Valentine gift to Fletcher Robinson Stapp and Elaine Hansen Stapp.

Monette: Yes, indeed. “There but for the grace of God go I.”

Sheryl may be reached at ssdepo@aol.com.

28 Jan 2009