By George Slaughter
It’s almost unimaginable to think of being flooded out of your home twice in two years as a positive thing. But Natasha Mendez, a Katy High School sophomore and daughter of Katy Ward B City Council Member Jimmy Mendez, can say as much.
Mendez and her family, like others in her neighborhood, were affected by the recent hurricane.
“I walked in, and there’s ankle deep water in my room,” she said. “We spent about two hours using a wet vac to get the water out.”
But that didn’t work. Water continued to enter the house. Evacuation was necessary. The family didn’t have much time to pick and choose what to take with them. They had to move quickly, and also had to pack up for their two dogs and two cats.
“Once you’ve packed, you really can’t do anything else,” she said. “It’s a sense of helplessness. You watch the water come in the house and not able to do everything. You see everything you’ve known for 15 years be washed away, quite literally.”
The three things of most interest to Natasha were her iPod, laptop computer, and sketchbook. Her iPod had her music. Her laptop had her pictures. Her sketchbook had drawings and poems she created.
All were lost.
They evacuated, like others in their neighborhood, to ride out the storm.
“We went back,” she said. “We walked around. I broke down a couple of times, but after the initial breakdown you say to yourself, you need to get this, this, and this done. You basically pull yourself together and get going. As we were walking around the house we saw all that happened. My dad started naming all the stuff we needed to do to clean out the house.”
Natasha decided to ask her friends for help. She called them on the telephone and posted about her situation on her Facebook page. The response was overwhelming.
“It was really unbelievable that all these people would come and help,” she said. “We had close to 80 people, and then we had people come by and make or buy food. People stopped by to see that we had enough help. We even had wrestling teams from other schools, such as Seven Lakes.“
She reached out to everyone she could, not expecting so many people to show up. Cleaning up the house, removing debris and dry wall, doing all the tough jobs that come with a flooded house—they were there for the Mendez family.
“Not everything has gone so bad,” she said. “People were traveling here from Sealy and farther out. It was really heartwarming. I felt the love of all the people who wanted to make sure we were truly OK before they left. They truly, honestly wanted to know how you were. They actually cared enough to listen. They really wanted to be there for you. It was really heartfelt.”
The devastation Harvey brought has and will continue to be documented. The many examples of hope and rebuilding will continue to be documented, also.
Yet for all the trauma, the hurricane has taught some important lessons.
“This time has shown me that times may be tough at the moment, but there’s always going to be a positive ending to it, or a positive that comes out of the negative issue that’s going on,” she said. “It’s brought me closer to my family, my friends, and my wrestling teammates. The issues you are going through aren’t permanent. They’re temporary, and you can fight through it. That’s what this experience has shown me. It showed me that I had strength I didn’t know I had.”
Lessons that will serve her, and others, well going forward.