I spoke with my friend June, who also lives in Austin, a couple of nights ago. People were bunking together in the senior complex in which she lives. A friend stayed on June’s couch so that three staff members could sleep in her apartment. Would that we could support each other so wholeheartedly without being in a crisis. Here’s a link to a list of places to contribute to help Texans get through this disaster.
A message from Texas
by Irit Umani, Austin, Texas
To all my friends who worry about me, and us, in Austin, Texas.
Power is back and water is running, though we need to boil the water before using it. Give me electricity and water, and I am a happy being. Later today, I’ll buy food, and probably be in-line for a llooonnngg time and buy not exactly what I want, but what the store will have.
Yes, it was a nightmare. But I wish to share with you the many acts of kindness that I saw, rather than talk about the total collapse of the “system” here.
In the condo complex where I live, the management opened the club house/office 24/7, because it has a gas fireplace. Some people slept there and others, like myself, spent most of the days there just thawing a bit and being in community. Someone figured out that we can cook and heat water on the barbecue at the swimming pool. The swimming pool itself was covered in a sheet of ice. Those who cooked, in the freezing temperatures, shared the food. People brought food, gloves, blankets, coats to give. I slept fine at home, with wool hat on, layers of clothes, good blankets (and a sleeping pill). There was no getting out of the complex unless your car is 4xD. I tried, and my car got stuck on the hill coming out of here. People helped me to push the car to the curb.
I wonder if we will keep the community that developed once this is over, or rather go back to “each to its own” American life-style. On Wednesday, following four straight days of this, my son who has a truck, but not 4xD, took the risk and came to pick me up. Their home never lost power. The car made it up the hill and he drove slowly and carefully. A trip that usually takes 30 minutes took an hour. It was a scary drive, as we passed many cars stuck beside the road. Once we made it, I was with family, heat, food, internet connection and, best of all, my cutest in the world grandchildren, Danny and Johnna.
I am back home since yesterday afternoon. The snow is slowly melting, my home is warm, and I am deeply grateful for God’s grace and people’s hearts. Lastly, a shout-out to the city’s management of Austin. Since last Friday, the city opened and operated 24/7 shelters and warming centers for people living on the streets, the unhoused. This took hours of preparation and coordination between many departments. Bus rides, when available, are free, and police and volunteers with 4xD transported people to the Warm Center when buses couldn’t run. People, unless they refused, had a place to stay indoors, keep warm and be fed. A huge effort and work of collaboration!
Hooray to Austin; Boo to Texas. Nothing is to be taken for granted! is one lesson. It takes a village, a community, to survive an emergency crisis, is the second lesson. Love and compassion are the ingredients. We knew this before; this week was an affirmation.
Be well, be warm, be safe, and be loving.