Several years ago in the midst of a family crisis, dear friends of ours counseled us to try to stay focused on praying for “best possible outcome” and reminded us that something good always comes from every terrible situation. When one is in the depths of despair, with so much uncertainty and worry that it’s hard to even know what to do next, that advice is very difficult to appreciate. However, in the case of that crisis, and with every other trial that has come our way since then, I now know in the depths of my soul that that advice was some of the best, and most remembered, that we will ever receive.
And so it has been with Hurricane Harvey. From the time the storm was named, to the agonizing hours we spent watching him strengthen and sharpen his focus on our beloved Rockport a year ago, to the hours immediately following when we didn’t know if our home or our friends had survived or perished, those sage words lodged themselves in our mind like a centering prayer. We had insurance, we could rebuild, we were able to watch the storm from safety; we were fortunate. Our home sustained significant damage but has since been repaired. Our friends are safe and healthy. The birds are back and flowers are blooming again. The technicolor, seaside sunrises and sunsets never left, of course.
While things in Rockport have improved more than any of us would have thought possible in those early days of devastation and chaos, it doesn’t feel right to say they are back to “normal.” I’m not sure anyone who lived through that storm will ever feel comfortable saying things are back to normal again. When something happens that is so out of human control, so beyond the reach of expectation as Harvey was, it substantially shifts one’s foundation of certainty.
One of the most profound changes we’ve observed in this past year has been a far greater level of true community with our town and our feeling of personal responsibility to it. Our home in Rockport is a second home. Prior to the storm, when we needed something there, we just ordered it from Amazon or some other online retailer, or brought it from our home in Austin. It was so easy to arrive there, with whatever we needed delivered right to our door. We could enjoy the water view and sunshine and everything else from our back deck.
Once we arrived in the driveway, we never had to leave. Our home offered us such privacy and peace, and we really didn’t feel a need to expand our horizons much beyond that driveway. That may sound selfish or self-absorbed, though I would never describe us in that way. We just thought of our place as a retreat, and not really as part of a larger community. That has absolutely changed, and for the better.
That privacy and peace is still there, but we find ourselves much more engaged in our front yard now. We have met many of our neighbors, most of whom are part-timers like ourselves. We talk to the joggers or walkers as they pass our home. We wave to everyone who passes and they wave back. It sounds crazy, since this is Texas and waving to passing cars is as expected as “please” and “thank you,” but it does feel like now when we wave, it’s a real, sincere acknowledgment. “I may not know who you are, but you are here and so am I. We made it. “It’s so good to see you here.” And it is!
Immediately after the storm, it was necessary to bring supplies and needed tools from afar, as the stores weren’t open or were packed with contractors who were busy rebuilding vital services and infrastructure. The stores that were open also had trouble keeping anything on the shelves due to the vast need.
In the months since then, we’ve not ordered anything from anywhere outside Rockport or Aransas Pass unless it absolutely isn’t available locally. We know that if our community is to survive, our businesses need to survive. If our businesses are to survive, they need employees. We have to support those in our own backyard. There are some businesses that I’ll try to visit every time I come to town, and I’ll buy something, even if it’s only a pack of cocktail napkins or a night light or a T-shirt. There is almost always a good conversation that begins with “It’s so good to see you here.”
We usually prefer, and enjoy, cooking and eating at home; now we make an effort to support local restaurants far more often than before. We engage with the staff in a more substantial way than we might have before. We ask questions and listen to the answers, not just exchange perfunctory niceties. We try to offer encouragement to them, and they offer encouragement to us, as well. It feels more important and true now when we say to each other, “It’s so good to see you here.”
The Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce and other local churches and organizations have done a phenomenal job of helping, and in some cases, almost willing the business community to pick themselves up and dust themselves off. Each reopened or new business is celebrated regardless of size or scope. Festivals are scheduled and organized and volunteers turn out in droves to support them.
Early on, it seemed like the last thing anyone wanted to do was to go hang out in a hot tent and listen to music when there was so much work to do. But that moment last fall, at SeaFair, when we watched kids dancing with their parents and weary neighbors sitting together with a cold beverage, tapping their toes and laughing, was a profound moment for us. Everything had been so frantic to that point. There was always something else that needed to be done before resting. Even if only for a moment, hundreds of locals came together and took a breath. “This is how you rebuild a community,” we thought.
Since that afternoon, we’ve stopped by every event they’ve planned, and so have many others. Before, it might have been easier or more restful to read a book on the patio and listen to the water. There is still time to do that, of course. Helping rebuild a community is more than just putting physical pieces back together. It’s helping to reweave the fabric of a place, and maybe even transforming it into something more inclusive, more colorful and stronger than before.
That can only be done with face-to-face, hand-to-hand, wave-to-wave personal commitment and interaction from everyone. Rockport has come back to where it is because of that kind of commitment, interaction and love from so many people. We are all more aware than ever before that everyone is in this together and we depend on each other if the community is to flourish.
So please, when you see a chance to pay Rockport-Fulton, Aransas Pass or Port Aransas a visit — do it! Visit the businesses, visit the restaurants, buy your groceries locally. I promise you that someone, and maybe everyone, you meet will say, “It’s so good to see you here.”
For more info: Visit the Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce at www.rockport-fulton.org, the Aransas Pass Chamber of Commerce at https://www.aransaspass.org/, and the Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce at portaransas.org.
About the author: Kelly Warren Moore has sold clinical research and development software solutions to the pharmaceutical and biotech industry for the past several years. She previously spent 20 years in business development for the pharmaceutical research and development field, focusing on multi-study, global clinical programs. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from The University of Texas at Austin. Any opinions expressed in this article are strictly her own and are not meant to represent those of any employer, client or organization with whom she is affiliated.