On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the gulf Coast of the United States. As the country watches the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey on Houston and the surrounding area, I can’t help but be reminded of Jesmyn Ward’s 2011 National Book Award-winning novel, “Salvage the Bones.” This pulsing novel reverberates with palpable tension as Hurricane Katrina moves closer and closer to insinuating itself into the lives of one Mississippi family. Like others without the resources to evacuate, they decide to hunker down to wait it out. But, there is one scene that keeps replaying in my mind in which the characters scramble from the attic to the roof in order to escape the rising water.
When a catastrophic event happens, it can be both difficult to know how to process it and how to help. Things that happen at a fair geographic distance provide us with a natural buffer. It can sometimes be easier to not engage with it at any capacity. Literature offers a mirror to reality, like the crystalline lens Ward uses to transport readers into the home of her characters, a home that’s as real as any of our own, as it is completely ravaged by Katrina. The people of Houston don’t have the luxury of distance. What is happening to them at this moment is a reality that could happen to any one of us.
If you’re wondering what you can do to help, many publications have come up with some suggestions, including “Where to Donate to Harvey Victims (and How to Avoid Scams)” from the New York Times. Planet Princeton is another source of information regarding local efforts, such as a South Brunswick trucking company that is collecting donations.
Photo information: Soldiers with the Texas Army National Guard move through flooded Houston streets as floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey continue to rise, Monday, August 28, 2017. More than 12,000 members of the Texas National Guard have been called to support local authorities in response to the storm. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Zachary West)
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