And why that’s a good thing

Houston, Aug. 29, 2017 — 

I can’t remember when it wasn’t raining.

The amount of water still flowing through this Bayou City confounds the imagination. Within walking distance, bayous and creeks have overflowed to catastrophic proportions. News footage and media reports are staggering, leaving no doubt as to the devastation confronting our city. As I write, I know that we are among the fortunate to remain safe and dry, but the rain keeps falling. Just last week, we were laughing through our eclipse glasses, looking at the sun. I remember it, but it seems like such a long time ago, like the edge of a nearly forgotten dream. If this were a science fiction novel, or one of those dystopian young adult novels, it would’ve been a sign, an omen to a fictional city of the destruction to follow. But it’s not. It’s Houston, the place I have loved and called home for nearly all of my life.

We’ve seen storms before. Longtime Houston residents approach storms with respectful acceptance, preparing and “hunkering down.” We know the drill. Hurricane Alicia ravaged Houston way back in 1984, with power outages and flooding. School was cancelled for at least a week, and my high school yearbook has photos of students wading through hip-high water and a pickup truck towing a wakeboarder through the parking lot. Tropical Storm Allison wreaked havoc downtown and in the Texas Medical Center in June of 2001, but parts of the city were nearly untouched. Recent floods, ones that never even had a name, resulted in previously unheard of damage to houses and neighborhoods. But the magnitude of this one has astounded us all.

I look out the window, and it is still raining.

The sky is a wintry gray but the air has that weird tropical storm feeling — soft, salty, moist and warm like your dog’s breath on your face. (Doesn’t that sound appealing?) When there is even a tiny break — that is, when it’s not absolutely pouring — people straggle outside in their rain gear, in thrown-together ensembles of rainboots, umbrellas, and camo gear (it is Texas) to greet each other and survey the damage.

It’s still raining.

I can hear the helicopters circling above, getting an aerial view of the flooding. I know it is the picture we will all see on the news and right now, I can’t help wondering if President Trump is on board and what he will say. But it doesn’t matter, really, because in the end, it’s Houston. And Houston is rising to the challenge. We are a city of neighbors. True neighbors, the kind who look out for one another and take care of each other.

Our neighbors are out in whatever boats they can find, rescuing those who are stranded. Neighbors are setting up shelters, bringing food and supplies, and already the George R. Brown Convention Center is filled. Local churches and school districts and community centers and yoga studios, as well as so many more, are finding ways to help out fellow Houstonians, even if it is still raining.

As one of the most diverse cities in the country, we know the value of sharing the best of ourselves and how that makes all of us stronger. And facing Harvey, we are called upon to do just that: to share what is best about each of us to put our city back together.

So think about us here in Houston. Pray for us. Send whatever needs to be sent. Donate what you can. We ask you to join us as neighbors. Working together and truly helping all of our neighbors, we can do it. And if that’s the result of Harvey, I’ll take the hangover.

Courtesy Catherine Legro Gentry
Catherine Legro Gentry ’88, is a writer living in Houston, Texas. An English major and member of the Tigressions while at Princeton, she retired from practicing environmental law to raise her three children. She currently works as a writing coach and aspiring novelist, and writes for the blog Words Count.

This essay is part of a series of personal essays at PAW Online. If you would like to contribute, contact us at