Contribute with affection
by Ann Lopez, Ph.D. Refugio County Commissioner, Pct. 1
Nov 08, 2012 | 1111 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print

I am so glad I live in Woodsboro, Refugio County, Texas, America! To have neighbors who watch for each other; who take time to ask important questions; and who, on significant matters, organize town hall meetings because they want to know who, what, when, where, and why; and who then follow-up!

And also I am so thankful to work with colleagues who care to know how their neighbors (who also happen to be constituents) think and who want to do the right thing by them.

Please indulge me to share a story which relates to conversations and meetings which happened this past week regarding the issue of Astroturf and emergency shelter during natural disasters.

Two years ago, I watched rising waters rushing past on Julia Street in Woodsboro, next to my house. Afraid that they might enter into our yard unless it stopped raining, I decided to monitor the situation from outside rather inside of my house, feeling it was less stressful this way.

I put on my water boots to see how bad it was because I’ve been through a flood before and the aftermath is not pleasant. Since I had already sloshed through the length of our block, I decided to slosh across town to see how others were faring on the east side of town. It was bad.

My parents often said they loved people they met every day. Everyone was a friend, and they rarely met a stranger. I didn’t comprehend this sentiment until Sunday, September 19, 2010, as I moved against water up to my ankles on 6th toward Main Street, where the water reached the tops of my boots as I crossed, still moving toward Ashby and Chaparral, the last streets on the east side.

Along the way, I was moved as I looked down streets on the east side of town (i.e., Third, Kansas, Guadalupe) to my left and to my right. I passed by houses which appeared to literally sit in the middle of lakes, with little creeks streaming in between, trying to join other faster moving waters, the waters nearly lapping at their doorsteps.

I wondered how those inside would leave their homes if they had to, if their houses began to flood since their vehicles appeared to be in similar situations. If the rains continued to fall, how would parents get their children to school? How would they get to work if their cars were flooded? How would the clean up afterward affect them? So many “What ifs!”

Lorraine later recalled what one of our friends once told her what they did in the 50s & 60s if school was not cancelled.

“Our mother made sure we had a towel or paper something for our heads and our shoes tied around our arms, then she watched us walk away in the water and mud to school. When we got there, everyone would be dry and we would be soaked, but we were there.”

Halfway through my “What if” musing, I became a bit emotional. All I could think of, as I looked at the scenery around me was, “These are my friends. I grew up with many of them, and their parents watched over me. Why does this have to happen?”

And as I sloshed back toward home, past Johnson Street to Locke, down Gallia, and other streets on the west side, I began to see that the good employees of the City were stretching yellow bands across the roads and putting up orange barriers to prevent cars and trucks from turning into flooded streets like 6th and elsewhere.

The following day, I drove to San Antonio in gentle rain, listening to a discussion of C. L. Lewis’ four definitions of love on one of the radio stations. C.L. Lewis was the author who wrote The Chronicles of Narnia and who was also renowned for the religious books he wrote.

I realized, as I listened, that the emotion I experienced the previous day was actually the second love defined by Lewis, storge (pronounced stor hay), meaning “a sense of belonging... familiarity, family and friends.” I thought, “That’s it! Storge! That’s what I felt - my sense of belonging, familiarity because many are friends with whom I grew up with and still interact with.”

I had experienced that love my parents often spoke about. Who was to know?

FYI, as I walked past friends’ houses that Sunday, a few had called out to me, “Why doesn’t someone do something about this?” pointing to debris-covered culverts.

“Why is it flooding on my side of the street and not the other?” And I thought, “Yes, why doesn’t someone do something about all this?” And then, like Pogo, I realized that that someone is US, not just elected officials, not just civic organizations, not just volunteers, not just the churches, but us, we, the residents of Woodsboro.

So, how does this little personal story relate to the Astroturf and emergency shelter issue of this and last week?

Before Hurricane Sandy in the northeast of the USA, the residents of this county have worried about the Big One, the next Celia. It’s been over 40 years since the category 4 storm, but we know we will be affected by another big storm.

It could be next year, maybe 10, another 40 years, but it will happen. We used to ask, “Why doesn’t someone do something to get ready for it?” since shelter was not possible at the old school site.

We thought, with the government-funded (FEMA) and bond-funded facility built in Woodsboro a couple of years ago that we had the answer, a facility to serve both school and shelter functions. Regrettably, for the past two years, during emergency training sessions right before hurricane season,that the new facility cannot serve as shelter for the population that needs it. The facility may be used by first responders only.

After Hurricane Sandy, and remembering recent Hurricanes Rita, Katrina, and Ike in the Gulf Coast, I know more than ever that our county and our communities need to be concerned about our residents during times of natural disasters, particularly during hurricane seasons. And I applaud Judge Mascorro for taking the leadership to get the conversation on emergency shelters going.

In hindsight, perhaps he could have brought both the Refugio ISD Board and the Commissioners Court together to present the idea of a partnership with Refugio ISD.

An idea of this magnitude could have used more partners and it could have used more details, including location options, costs, users, and public input, before it appeared in the paper. Whenever (once) I spoke to the Judge about the idea, it was always with the understanding that this was a first step in securing an emergency shelter, not the end of all ends on the matter.

Of course, this is hindsight. After your article appeared in the paper last week, beginning at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday and ending on Monday at noon, I received over 150 calls, messages, and f2f conversations about the issue. I finally started jotting the names of calls I was receiving between my home phone and cell phone – 42, in all, on Sunday evening.

All except one were against what the callers thought was going to be a vote on the “Astroturf” by the Commissioners Court during their special called meeting. The callers were from Bayside, Refugio, and Woodsboro.

How this plan is developed is still to be determined, but rest assured, the whole county will be involved.

“Pogo,” for those of you who don’t know and those of us who still remember, was a possum in the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia who appeared in the cartoon by the same name.

One of the comic strips has him saying to his friends, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

OK. So, how will you contribute to calls for action? With affection.

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