This blog began by text on the front porch of an historic home on the East End of Galveston a few nights after Hurricane Ike devastated the island on September 13, 2008, and a few minutes after I was confronted by a baby-faced National Guardsman with a submachine gun pointed between my eyes. My essays were picked up by the NBC Houston affiliate KPRC-TV, who published them as the Galveston After Ike blog until 2012. If you’re here to learn what it’s like to go through a storm, please read from the bottom up.
I received the note below nearly four years after the storm. It is why I wrote about it. But I’ve moved away now, and am no longer the best spokesperson for that place with more hues than the sea. These essays may serve as an archive of remembrances of a brief time we shared, what we loved, lost, and yes, what we wore.
I just stumbled across your post Ike essays, and I just have to say “thank you,” because for the first time, I feel like someone really understood me, and understood what I went through. Please don’t misunderstand me, I am very sorry for all of your losses, but I had a very similar story, and it just felt really nice to read your misfortune, and understand that finally, someone else understood.
I, also, didn’t get a dollar from my insurance, nor did I get a dollar from FEMA. I used my savings to fix my house, and then got all of my credit cut because I, too, was self employed in a disaster area. I could go on and on, but suffice to say, our stories matched on so many different levels.
The thing I hated the most was when my friends from out of state or out of area, would “comfort” me by saying “I know exactly how you feel, our car broke down yesterday, and it is a big bummer.” If I had a dollar for everyone that told me that “God had a plan for me,” or “that which does not kill you makes you stronger,” I would be a millionaire.
I still have not dug myself out of my financial black hole, but I do have faith and hope that it will happen one day soon. Thank you for your beautiful essays, and thank you for finally making me feel understood.”
— Andrea T.
#1 by Pamela on June 21, 2012 - 2:37 pm
I have read the essays a couple of times and so glad I did. Thank you for sharing this with me. It is amazing that when people experience similar tragedy there reaction and emotional response are so much the same. It is so true that one had to be a victim of Ike to understand the personal devastation of loosing a life time of “stuff”. Not to mention the financial devastation and loss. I guess that’s the premise behind group therapy.
#2 by Pamela on June 22, 2012 - 7:15 am
Reading these essays have brought up a lot of old memories. I remember one day when I was driving on NASA Rd, pulling over to the side of the road and screaming and screaming and screaming until my throat was on fire. Then I pulled back on the road and started laughing at how crazy I must have looked…..but I felt better. That was right after a friend told me that i should not be so negative. Something about it being bad for my carma!!! Looking back gives such clear vision as to how far I’ve come and what I’ve accomplished since that day on NASA Road. I’m still picking up the pieces but I’ve made a lot of progress. I’m very close to being the “new” normal!!!
#3 by Alice Melott on June 25, 2012 - 1:41 pm
Pamela — It must’ve been something about NASA Rd. I had an Ike meltdown there, too!
#4 by Carol on July 6, 2012 - 2:39 pm
The “After Ike” blog was initially, for me, having someone put into words the feelings of a World – at least what seemed like a world of people in pain…financial pain, emotional pain, physical pain, business pain and relationship pain (Their relationship with a beloved Island). As time went on it gave me comfort that at least someone still recognized the pain was still very present even when no one seemed to care. Thanks for all that you led us through with your gift of expression thru words!
#5 by Kim Mytelka on July 6, 2012 - 2:43 pm
Alice, you are a beautiful writer. You post-Ike essays really expressed what so many people went through and continue to deal with. I believe that Galveston is slowly coming to a ‘new’ normal. Ike will always be a marker for Galvestonians, but we are not allowing it to define us.
#6 by Kathy M. on July 6, 2012 - 5:56 pm
I would like to say “ditto” to Carol and Kim’s sentiments. It was so difficult for many of us to put into words exactly what we were going through. You accomplished that for us.
I felt numb for so long and felt that few people outside our community knew what was going on here in the Galveston area. I had my first real (public) meltdown in New Orleans, January 2009 (I don’t have to tell anyone who experience Ike that it was four months later and 3 years and 3 months after Katrina).
When a lady in the Visitor Center on Jackson square asked me, ‘where y’all from” and I responded, “Galveston”, she reached across the counter and took my hand. In the sweetest voice, she said, “How are y’all doing?”. I tear up now just writing this. Only in New Orleans did they truly understand what we had gone through. It’s funny how the smallest kindness stays with you. The unpleasantness is not forgotten, but at least diminished by those memories.
Thanks for this blog and giving a voice to those of us who don’t have your talent!
#7 by Murray Berliski on July 7, 2012 - 9:10 pm
Alice, Ike was devastating to all of us that experienced it. And your writings always made me feel that we were all in the recovery together.
However, I saddened that you will no longer be sharing your stories about our island. I too have moved away but will always be greatful to our island for allowing me to meet so many great people and you will always be at the top of that list. And I will always consider you a friend.
#8 by Alice Melott on July 7, 2012 - 9:17 pm
I’m so glad to know that, Murray. I feel the same. And I really do hope you’ll come see me in Atlanta when you can! We owe each other a few cocktails! ;c)
#9 by Holly Jahangiri on July 8, 2012 - 4:53 pm
It may have been finding this blog after the hurricane that put us back in touch after many years… and showed me another side to your writing that I have enjoyed very much ever since. I’m not sorry you’re moving on, as I think the time comes when we all need to do that – but closing this chapter just opens another, and I look forward to reading more from you and sharing many more years of friendship.
#10 by Laurel on July 8, 2012 - 5:03 pm
Love your style of writing. What an eye-opening comparison between Iraq and Galveston on literally being powerless – especially when describing the relatively “short” timeframe in Galveston as “messy, inconvenient, life-altering, but doable.” You certainly have a gift for viewing life in realistic terms. Thanks for sharing, Alice.
#11 by Alex on July 8, 2012 - 5:07 pm
Alice, you are a wonderful writer able to capture and communicate what a loss of this magnitude feels like! In 2007 I visited my home in New Orleans where I once lived as a child. All that was left was a set of cracked concrete steps. As I stood there I was suddenly overcome by the feeling that part of my life had been excised. I can only imagine what it’s like to see your current home destroyed. Thank you.
#12 by Nicole on July 8, 2012 - 5:08 pm
I once heard that if you were to sit in a circle with all the people of the world, everyone throwing their troubles into the middle, and were able to choose a set of troubles to take… you would eventually just pick your own back out. It’s amazing what you can go through and look back and say, “oh yeah, that happened”. Your strength and bravery are venerable and your documentation is fantastic.
#13 by Alex on July 8, 2012 - 5:08 pm
There is a reason why the poets told us to stop and smell the roses. That reason is life.
#14 by Tiffany on July 8, 2012 - 5:10 pm
You don’t know me directly – I have been following your blog after learning what tragedyGalveston experienced. Your insight continues to amaze me & often entertains me. Your attitude toward such a horrible experience is uplifting, engaging and thoroughly educating. If I ever have to face such a situation, I hope to have a tad (or more) of what you embody!
If I were there, I’d give you the kind of great big hug you spoke about!
Keep on keepin’ on!
#15 by Alexa on July 8, 2012 - 5:10 pm
The spirit of Galveston lives! My grandmother visiting from Louisiana survived the 1900 storm and I survived Ike with minimal problems. I hope to continue helping to support the recovery efforts. The people of Galveston are so resilient. Thanks, Alice, for expressing our feelings about our little paradise so eloquently.
#16 by Tammie on July 8, 2012 - 5:12 pm
Thanks for sharing your story Alice, and for the encouragement to stop using the hurricane as an excuse for inaction. A friend forwarded a message from a weekend homeowner in Galveston, who lamented the lack of media attention we received, particularly compared to Katrina victims, and also went on and on about all the negative aspects of the island in its current state. I replied that we had no interest in and were far too resourceful to be compared with Katrina victims. And I added a long list of island positives, ending with the question — so what have YOU done to make things better on the island? Whiners have always had to go to bed in our household. I wrote that progress was swift and substantial immediately after the storm in terms of clean-up, but now we are down to the hard work of rebuilding, slogging along, progressing slowly, but PROGRESSING! I ended, if you can’t be supportive and helpful, go ahead and abandon the island. There are plenty of full-time residents who have genuine problems and need our help.
Thanks for the soapbox. Tammie
#17 by Suzy on July 8, 2012 - 5:13 pm
Wonderful writing and a great read. CAN you sew???
#18 by Peggie on July 8, 2012 - 5:14 pm
I love your stories! You are a gifted writer.
#19 by Dawn on July 8, 2012 - 5:15 pm
I am thankful to you for showing some of Bolivar. We felt very forgotten on this side of the ship channel. Reading your blog inspired me to start my own. Although, it is not nearly as well written as yours and I haven’t been keeping up with it, I remembered how much I enjoyed to write, and it was good therapy for me for awhile.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think that overcoming a hurricane would be this hard.
Thanks for all you do.
#20 by Madonna on July 8, 2012 - 5:17 pm
If I had your talent for writing, I’d express your very same views for at least one hundred of my friends, aquaintances and myself, who have been effected by IKE.
Every story would not be identical, but every story is heart wrenching.
And like your friend Alex, our battle is not over, it’s just starting.
Don’t get me started on Insurance, Fema, Comcast, Center Point, Galveston Water Co., Texas Gas Co., and our own City Council.
We came back home and struggled to put our lives back together.
We have been victimized by ‘those who can’, who tell us what to do and how to do it. We must pay for services we still don’t have. We tear out and replace rotted sheet rock to keep from sucking mold into our lungs, because we were not allowed to come back to our homes in a timely manner. Then we find out we didn’t get the right kind of Permit for what we did, (because the City Permit rules change daily) so we have to tear it out so Fema can inspect, and we get to do it over again.
We stood in lines for food, water, emergency care, tetnus shots, flu shots, and Permits
We had to pay for inspectors, to inspect licensed plumbers and electricians work, which we had ‘paid’ permits for (of course), before they would come out in 3-14 days and turn our electric, water, and gas on. (That is if you are fortunate enough to live in an area that has these luxuries. Some of our Island still doesn’t have utilities. I have a home on the West end that just got water, after the 1st of Feb.)
We have obeyed all the rules, we have paid through the nose for what we are trying to keep, we have and still are, paying for those who don’t pay, but keep ‘getting’, yet we keep getting tossed aside.
I feel for my friends and aquaintance’s, I feel for all of the Alex’s.
We have been drained financially, myself included. If the bleeding doesn’t stop soon, what will become of us?
Insurance, Fema, Utilitiy Companies, and our own City has used and abused us.
Words are only words, help is what we need.
Thanks for sounding off. Your words need to be heard.
#21 by Gay on July 8, 2012 - 5:19 pm
Alice, we have made many new friends as a result of Ike, including you. That is a blessing.
#22 by Melinda on July 8, 2012 - 5:19 pm
Alice, your words resonate with me. And my heart is in tune with those battered and struggling Galveston spirits fighting through tears and exhaustion to start again, build anew.
I lost my young husband, two months’ shy of his 51st birthday, two agonizing years ago. We shared a small home-building business, gone now, too, without his experienced hand to shepherd it along. Unemployed now, with mounting debt and two properties that sit stale and unsold on a cold Seattle market, battling depression and hopelessness, and loneliness, the one spark that gives me new hope is, perhaps oddly to those that dwell there, Galveston.
I sit at my laptop, on a dreary April afternoon, dreaming of Galveston, searching for new information, searching the local MLS, searching for my new home. I am a native Texan, homeward bound now, but not back to dusty Dallas from where I began. No, this time I’m coming home to Galveston.
Galveston understands my pain and I hers. We will help each other.
#23 by Laurie on July 8, 2012 - 5:20 pm
Although far removed from Ike and it’s nasty remnants (we moved from Houston a month before the SOB hit), I can totally sense the devastation it left on you and many others throughout your stories. I absolutely LOVE your style of writing. From the looks of things, YOUR blog generated the most responses at Channel 2. Hopefully, they put you on the payroll from the beginning!
#24 by Laurie on July 8, 2012 - 5:21 pm
Keep up the great work, Alice. You’re obviously a witty and reassuring soul to those long-time acquaintances and newfound friends!
#25 by Mary Lee on July 8, 2012 - 5:22 pm
Your writing is so inviting, Alice. I can picture everything you mention. I love the spiritual message in that guy’s plea about the state of his house vs. his tax assessment. Thanks for including that. Beautiful!
#26 by Jackie on July 8, 2012 - 5:23 pm
Thanks for your postings full of heart.
#27 by Mary on July 8, 2012 - 5:24 pm
God did not see fit to allow me to be born in Galveston but he saw fit to allow me to get here as fast as I could. Now I remember why.
#28 by John on July 8, 2012 - 5:25 pm
Thank you. Love to read stories of our old Island.
#29 by Terri on July 8, 2012 - 5:25 pm
You make me think of all the visionaries in the 1930s who lost everything and could have given up but instead looked immediately to next. The ideas and courage of those resilient ones still influence our lives today.
You have a gift, Alice!
#30 by Alex Labry on July 10, 2012 - 3:23 pm
Thank you so much for your contribution to the understanding of the human condition. As Thurgood Marshall once said, “I’m all for people pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, What I am concerned about is those who don’t have bootstraps”. Hurricanes wash boots and straps away regardless of who owns them. For those who have several extra pairs of boots it’s an inconvenience to change boots, for those with just one pair the street is hard on bare feet. All songs must come to an end. Well sung sister! I’m eager to hear your next tune. Alex
#31 by Tad on August 15, 2014 - 3:51 am
We’re almost there but we need everyone to pitch in to make Galveston better than ever before.