Gloria Rose has lived in Houston since September of 2005. Before that, she lived in New Orleans but left after Hurricane Katrina. Rose recounts some of her experiences during Katrina, including how the water got to the seventh floor of her building, and how her family stayed at a hotel for days before leaving for Houston.
Rose became the director of Wheeler Avenue Christian Academy a few years after she came to Houston. During Hurricane Harvey, Rose remembers praying that the storm would not be as bad as Katrina. Rose says that church has always been a part of her life, and that she quickly became involved at Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church. As a part of the recovery efforts from Harvey, Wheeler became a center that distributed material goods to those in need, and Rose greeted those coming to the center. At the church distribution center, a volunteer would go around and collect the requested items. Rose was in charge of making sure everything was in its place. She says that she did not want people coming to the center to feel as if they were refugees, something she felt after Katrina, and that she worked to make sure people knew they were loved by God. Rose received much love and appreciation from her church community, as she was recovering from transplant surgery. She was never without a caretaker during her recovery. The center at Wheeler helped anyone who needed it, not just those affected by Harvey. Rose was at the distribution center from the day it opened to the day it closed, just before Thanksgiving. Rose comments on how caring and hospitable the people of Houston have been to her, and that she never expected Houston to be home. To end the conversation, Rose explains how she received a liver transplant and how her church community supported her during the recovery.
Interviewee: Gloria Rose
Interview Date: August 24, 2018
Interviewer: Sherridan Schwartz, Todd Romero
INTERVIEWER: I’m Sherridan Schwartz, and today is August 24, 2018. And we’re conducting interviews for the Center for Public History at UH about Hurricane Harvey.
SS: So I’m going to ask you if you can state your name and birthdate, if you want to — or your age, if you feel comfortable sharing it.
GR: My name is Gloria T. Rose. And my birthday is February 25, 1951. And I’m honored to say that the Lord blessed me to be 68 years old. In February, I’ll be 68 — 67, 68.
SS: Alright, blessing. So tell us a little bit about you coming to Houston, how long you’ve been here, and the story about how you ended up in Houston.
GR: Okay, I’ve been in Houston since September of 2005. We had Hurricane Katrina [0:01:00]. I’m from New Orleans, Louisiana. And we experienced Hurricane Katrina. And it was a long journey getting here, because we were housed in a hotel. And we were on the 7th floor. And the water came up to the 7th floor. There were 21 of us, my family. There was 21 family members together. And we had five cars, and we lost all of them but two. So had to figure out how we were — what we were going to do and how we going to do it. And we prayed about it, and like I say, we had water up to the 7th floor.
Well, everybody was able to actually walk down the steps, because we didn’t have any electricity. But we had an uncle that was with us, and he was 93 years old [0:02:00]. His name was Eugene Leonard. And we had to figure out how we going to get him downstairs. So the men carried him downstairs.
So we only had two cars left. So we all jampacked in those two cars. They were SUVs. So we all jampacked in those. So when we got out and we got in the cars, there was a police officer. And she told us — she said, “If –” We were on the east bank. She said, “If you can get across the street — I mean, across the river on the west bank, it’s dry land.” So we tried to get around, because you had wires down everywhere. So you had to be careful of where you were driving. So I don’t know if you ever — you know where the Superdome is?
SS: Of course.
GR: Okay, so you know the overpass right there? So we got to the overpass [0:03:00], and you had water coming this way. And you had water coming this way. And you just had people all over the overpass. Well, we were in two cars. So we said, “If we have to spend the night here — if we can get across the river in the morning, we’ll be okay.” Well, we experienced a lot, because it was pitch black. We saw — we heard people falling off the bridge.
When we got — when we got daylight that morning, we saw people on the ground that had expired, because they had fallen. Then you had children crying everywhere, you know. So when we looked, my little niece that was driving, Rhonda, she said, “If the –” We were going this way. But coming across the river was this way. She said, “Nobody can come that way over here. If we [0:04:00] can get across that way, we can get over there.”
So we took one car, because the second car wouldn’t start. So now, we down to one car. So what we did — we took the babies, and we took my uncle, and we went the opposite way across the bridge. And we got over to the west bank. And there was a Holiday Inn, so we asked the lady that was the manager if she had any rooms. She said, “No, we don’t have any rooms.” She said, “My staff is taking up all the space.” So I asked her — I said, “Well, can you give us a chair for my uncle to sit in?” I said, and we’ll just keep the children here.
So my little niece left us there. She went back to go get the other half of them. Police wouldn’t let her through. So then she had to walk back where they were. My sister [0:05:00] had had double-knee surgery a month before this happened. And she had to walk across that bridge to the Holiday Inn. Well, we were all at Holiday Inn — no room. So about midnight, the manager came, and she told us — she said, “I have two rooms.” So we said, “We’ll take that.” So we piled up in two rooms. We stayed there. We had to stay there eight days, because we only had one car.
We had a little nephew that lived in Jefferson Parish, but Harry Lee, the sheriff, wasn’t letting anybody out of Jefferson Parish into Orleans Parish. And he wasn’t letting anybody out of Orleans Parish into Jefferson Parish. So we had to stay there eight days. We survived there eight days. Some of the people that were employees at the hotel, they lived around the area. So they went, and they got [0:06:00] all the food that they had in their refrigerators. And that’s how my sisters got there. And we cooked for everybody that was there.
So next door to us, they had the electrical company, Entergy, right next door to us that was working. So I’m trying to think of the name of the food place. It’s on the tip of my tongue. They sell sandwiches. It’ll come to me, but they were delivering food to Entergy. So after they saw we had children, they fed — well, they fed us, too. But they were interested in the children and my uncle.
So we — after eight days, my little nephew was able to come in with a Yukon. So we headed up Highway 90, and we got to Houston. Well, luckily, my daughter-in-law and my [0:07:00] son was already here, because my daughter-in-law was Mayor Nagin’s writer. So he sent them ahead of time, and they put her in housing. So when Reverend Lawson said that he had just built the WALIPP and he had available apartments, she asked that he would house us. So we didn’t have to go to the Reliant Center like other people. We were blessed there, so we went on. And we stayed — we stayed two years at the WALIPP. And they were very, very good to us. So that made us want to, more so, come to Wheeler, because they were so good to us.
Well, we had children that needed to be in school. So I came down to Wheeler Avenue Christian Academy, and I asked if they had room for the children in school [0:08:00]. And they told us yes. Well, that was a blessing, too, because in New Orleans, I had — the day before Katrina, I had just had registration. I had a daycare center, Gloria’s Home Care. We had just got all of our supplies together for registration. We lost all of that. But when we got here and I talked to Dr. Doris Bilton, who was the director, and she told me she had room for the children. Well, then we got into a conversation somehow. And I said I had a daycare center. Well, she said, “Would you volunteer here?” So I did.
I started that October volunteering here. And I volunteered for two years, and then after the two years, I was hired. And then I became the [0:09:00] director of Wheeler Avenue Christian Academy up until December ’12 — 2012. I came to work that morning. I wasn’t feeling well before I came. And I told my son — I said, “I don’t feel well, but I’m going to work anyway.” Well, I got to work, and I was sick all day. And I don’t know — can I really tell you what was wrong with me? Is it okay?
GR: Okay. Well, I didn’t know what was wrong, but I was passing blood. I was bleeding. And I was vomiting blood back and forth all day — all day. I worked from 6:00 that morning until 6:00 that evening. About 5:30, I went in the baby’s room, and I told Ms. Marge — I said, “Ms. Marge, I’m so weak.” So she said, “Sit here in the rocking chair [0:10:00].” Well, I had to quickly run to the bathroom, because I had to regurgitate. And then they realized that I was passing blood. And Ms. Solomon — Mildred Solomon, she told me — she said, “I’ll bring you home,” because my son hadn’t gotten here to pick me up. So by the time I got home, I was limp. I was weak.
Well, my son got home. And he saw what was happening. Well, I passed out, but let me tell you how God works. Ms. Mildred forgot her purse at my house, so she had to come back to get her purse. And my son said, “My momma passed out.” They called 911. 911 came, and the guy asked me — he said, “Do you want to go to the hospital?” I said, “No, I have a Christmas play at school tomorrow. I can’t go to the hospital. I got to go to my Christmas play.” He said, “I guarantee you I’m going to be back [0:11:00]. I will be back.”
Well, from then on, for about at least two to three weeks, I didn’t know anything. I was in ICU. They say I was in a coma. So from then on, I didn’t know anything until I came out. And then I had a whole gob of doctors all around me, telling me this is wrong, that’s wrong, you know. So I went through a series of tests, and they finally called my family in to tell them that I needed transplant. So that’s — so did I basically tell you what you wanted to know?
SS: You did. You did and so much more. With that kind of background and experience, can you give us an idea of how you feel when they start talking on the news about storms like Ike? Because you would have been here [0:12:00], I guess, maybe —
GR: I was here for Ike. You immediately get a fright. But then you have to trust God and pray that you don’t go through what you went through with Katrina, you know. And like I say, you get a fright. But you also prepared yourself. You know what you need. You know you need canned goods. You know you need water and whatever — batteries, flashlights, and all of that. So you prepare yourself. But you’re still praying, “Lord, don’t let it be as drastic as Katrina.”
SS: It’s hard to believe that it was a year ago. But can you tell us when you started realizing the Harvey was going to be a different kind of a storm?
GR: Well, I live in Pearland. And they told me that it didn’t flood out there [0:13:00]. But I kept looking — I was at home by myself, because I live by myself now — since the passing of my son. And I’m standing at the door, and I’m praying, “Lord, please don’t let this water come in the house.” And I’m looking at it at the street. And it’s — I saw some young men walking through the water. And it was waist deep for them. But I don’t know. It looked like my house must have been — sidewalk must have been like on a slant, because the motor water was coming up. It was going back. And I’m saying, “Thank you, Jesus. You know, the water is going back.” So the — I was just praying that it didn’t get as drastic.
But I was listening — as much as we could have TV, I’m watching all that the other people are going through. And I’m praying for these people that they don’t drown, because we had so many [0:14:00] people in Katrina that drown. We had so many people in the attics and all of this, you know. So I’m praying, “Lord, let them through.” You know, and He did.
SS: Can you tell us a little bit about what you felt when you saw people on the roofs and in the attic? Did it bring up, I don’t want to say, memories or trauma?
GR: It did. It did. Every time we get a hard rain, it brings back memories. And when I saw these people on roofs and in boats and all of that, it brought back great memories, yes.
SS: How did you feel seeing people, from as far as Louisiana with the Cajun Navy and just people who had boats, come to the aid for your new city, your adopted city, your new home?
GR: Well, it was [0:15:00] wonderful to see them reach out to help, but they knew what they had gone through. And they knew the help that we received, so this is the way you’re supposed to live with your brothers and sisters. And it made me feel really, really good to know and to know some of those people that came, you know, to help. It really made me feel real good.
SS: You got to actually see people that you knew and from places that you were familiar with?
GR: Yes, you have — yes, uh-huh.
SS: That’s an amazing story. When you talk about you being here as part of your church family, when did you realize that you may have had something to share or a way to help? What was that like? Because people talk here about you as a servant leader. Yes, ma’am, Sister Rose, and that you weren’t deputized and officiated, but how you took it upon yourself [0:16:00] and evolved. So talk just a little bit about that if you’d like. What made you know, “I’ve got something to share. I’ve got something to help. I’ve got — there’s something that’s got to be done?”
GR: Well, I guess it was from my upbringing. I’ve always worked in the church. That’s the way my godmother brought us up. And we always had something to do in the church. And like I told you, when I got here, it was a privilege for me to be able to volunteer at the daycare center. And then after getting involved in the church, I was involved, not a choir member, not a deaconess, or anything. But whenever I could help with — I love the seniors. And I had the opportunity. I met Dr. McDavid, and she would tell me about different players at the ensemble [0:17:00] and all of this. And it was an opportunity to help them. So I got involved with the seniors when I brought my children from the daycare to the ensemble. I gave the seniors tickets so they could go, too.
So it was an opportunity to help. So every time I had an opportunity, no matter what it was, if I could help, if it was serving Thanksgiving dinners to the homeless, if it’s serving Juneteenth, if I had the opportunity, I want it. And really, I have never — and I wish I had brought my purse upstairs. I have never given it to him, but I actually have a letter that I wrote to my pastor and his wife. Because, see, the things that you’re telling me, I never knew people felt that way about me. And I wrote this letter to Pastor, and I said that I wanted to be [0:18:00] more. They call it my seat in church. There’s a chair that I sit in every Sunday in 7:15 service. They told you about that?
SS: Yes, ma’am.
GR: And I wrote this letter, and I actually said to him that I wanted to do something other than sit in that chair. I didn’t want to be a bench member, but.
SS: I was trying to describe that. The only way I knew how to say this — but when I took a peek in at the relief center that Wheeler had set up, it looked to me almost like a Costco. That’s the way I described it.
GR: It was very organized.
SS: It was just, I mean, an amazing thing. I’ve never seen anything like that in a non-commercial atmosphere. And certainly, please, can you tell us what a bit of a day was like during that period where you were literally on the ground helping [0:19:00], shepherding, being of service? Or just tell us what you did to help people who came there in need.
GR: Well, somehow — I don’t know how I got the position, but I immediately became the greeter. So when I — I would come in early in the morning to make sure everything was set up. And we had trucks that came in overnight. And I wanted to make sure that I could help Mr. Cosby and Mrs. Cosby, you know, set up everything. So my job was to make sure that the people were greeted right and as they came in. I was over what we call shoppers. And we would have this group of ladies and men that would be personal shoppers. And I would ask the people in line, “Good morning, how are you? How many people are in your family [0:20:00]?” And then we would get a shopper, and I would make sure they would go in and shop with them — you know, and answer any questions that were sensitive.
So then I became, more or less, Mrs. Cosby’s assistant. So we kept everything — made sure everything was organized — everything was in place, you know. So we tried to make it where you wouldn’t have to go and go through things to look. You knew where everything was. You knew when you came in to your left was the baby items. Then as you went around, you had the little girls’ clothes. And you had the little boys’ clothes. Then you had the men clothes. And then to the back, you had your supplies — your cleaning supplies. Then as you came back around, you had the ladies’ clothes. And you had the ladies’ shoes. So we tried to have it organized, so you wouldn’t be [0:21:00] going from this place to that place.
SS: One of the things that I heard — the feedback that I heard was that the Wheeler relief center, Sister Rose, treated people with such dignity. Is there something, maybe through your experience from Katrina or through your experiences as we all come to where we are, that helped you to be particularly sensitive to the fact that, as we sometimes say, there by the grace of God go I — go us? People really were struck by how Wheeler was so welcoming and did not treat people like they were victims, but survivors and brothers and sisters. How do you feel that maybe you –?
GR: Well, I’m going to use the word that they used with us when we came here. They called us refugees. When we came, they called us refugees.
SS: Say it, Sister Rose.
GR: And we did not want those people to feel like that. We wanted [0:22:00] to let them know that they were people. And some of them were homeless. Some of them had no clothes. Some of them had no food, but you still were a person. You were one of God’s children just as we were. And we wanted you to know that we were here to help you, not to belittle you, not to make you feel like you weren’t a real person.
And we went through this with Katrina. We went places to get clothes and food and — “Oh, here come the refugees.” And they really talked about us, but it didn’t faze me. It didn’t faze me, because I knew — basically, I felt like they didn’t know any better. They had never seen this happen before. They had never had this devastation in Texas — all of these people at one time, you know. And it — with Harvey, it wasn’t people from another state. It was people [0:23:00] right here in Houston. They weren’t from another state. They were right here in Houston. They were right around the corner, some of them. But they had lost everything. And this is the way Wheeler is. Wheeler has a lot of hospitality. And they treat you like you are human beings — like you’re people.
SS: What were some of the challenges that you saw, even to serve as a servant? You know, I remember it was a time it was hard to navigate to even get — even if you were in a part of the city that wasn’t affected, it was hard to get across sometimes — to get to where you were even to help people. Did you face any personal challenges just to act as a servant, getting around, and keeping your energy level up? Because you kept people going with your energy and your faith. Can you talk [0:24:00] about that?
GR: Well, with my energy level, I had to make sure that I took my medicine on time. I had to make sure I ate. And everybody was concerned about me, believe me. “Ms. Rose, did you take your medicine? Ms. Rose, did you eat?” You know, especially Mrs. Cosby, “Ms. Rose, you okay? Did you eat?” But I really didn’t have a problem getting here, because it wasn’t very hard to get across 288. There, we had another route down Kirby if we couldn’t — you know, so it wasn’t hard for me to get here. But some of the other people that worked, they came through a lot to get here. But they got here to serve.
SS: Do you think that, having seen what you’ve seen with Katrina and having seen what you’ve seen with Harvey, you had a sense that the community could rely [0:25:00] on the government or public administration? Or you know, I remember people saying, “Well, we’ve got to help ourselves, because FEMA ain’t going to help us.” This was, you know, in Houston. Do you think that you felt a sense that this was something that we had to do? Or maybe you may have been able to know some things that someone sitting at a government desk didn’t know about helping people. And if so, anything you’d like to share with us?
GR: That — I can’t talk about a whole lot. I heard of stories from people that they were having problems with FEMA, you know. And I — actually, I know some people that went through a lot trying to get help from FEMA. But I personally didn’t have that problem with FEMA. FEMA came through for my family members [0:26:00]. And by me having home insurance, I didn’t have to go through that. Thank God. But with my family members, they went through a lot trying to get from FEMA. And with Harvey, I have a lot of friends that had trouble with FEMA. In fact, we had a lady in our Senior Saints, she just got help about two months ago to get a roof on her house. And she had to go through — what’s the lady on Channel 26 that you call?
TR: I know who you’re talking about. I can’t remember — I can see her, yeah.
GR: You know who I’m talking about?
SS: I can’t think of it right now. The consumer affairs reporter.
SS: Emily Akin?
GR: Emily Akin. We thought about at — telling her to call her. She called [0:27:00] her. She told her who to call. And they told her who to call. And she got help, so she finally has a roof. So you have to really — I don’t know if you ever heard your mom or grandmother say, “You have to really know somebody.” It’s not what you know. It’s who you know.
SS: Yes, ma’am.
GR: So sometimes that’s what happens.
SS: There were — it sounds as if you were — even though with all the things your family experienced, you had resources that some maybe did not have. There’s always criticism of things like that — that any effort or generosity — “They weren’t vetting people, or they weren’t checking people.” Tell us a little bit about how you feel about helping those and not requiring — Wheeler was one of the places people said they were helping everybody. “Go to Wheeler. They’ve got diapers. No one else has diapers. Go to Wheeler. You don’t have to have a FEMA number.”
SS: Tell us a little bit about what you feel [0:28:00] and why you feel that was important.
GR: That was important, because a lot of the people that came, they had never heard about FEMA. So they wouldn’t have known to go and get a FEMA number, but they were in need. And it would have been real hard to say to somebody, “Well, I can’t help you, because you need a FEMA number.” So Pastor did not tell us that we needed to go that route. He said, “Help the people.” And that’s what we did, help the people. We know that a lot of the people — we had people — they didn’t know. They thought they could come every day. But we couldn’t allow that to happen — come every day. We — some of them we said you have — you can come once a month. And then as we got more and more things, [0:29:00] trucks were coming in from everywhere. All over the country, trucks were coming in with so many wonderful things. And I mean, brand-new items that was coming. It wasn’t things that people could not use.
SS: Pallets and pallets.
GR: So then after we got more and more resources, then we got to the point where they could come once a week to get, you know.
SS: How long did you personally continue, to the best of your recollection, the outreach? For some people, they say, “Oh, I volunteered 72 hours.”
GR: I volunteered from — if I remember right, from basically — I would get here about 7:30, because — when my ride got here. I Uber. So whenever I got a ride, I got here. Sometimes I would be the first one here, 7:30, 8 o’clock in the morning. And I was here until we closed in the evening. When we started out, we [0:30:00] were here until late at night. And then gradually, we started cutting down the hours. Then gradually, we started cutting down the days. Because we were doing this on Saturdays and Sundays. We were doing this straight, seven days a week. So then we start cutting down the days, but I was here from beginning to end. I think it was around August 30th — day might be off a little bit. But I was here until we closed, so we could serve the homeless for Thanksgiving — every day.
TR: When did you finally close the efforts?
GR: I think we closed that Saturday or Sunday before the week of Thanksgiving if my dates are right.
SS: No, that sounds — your recollection is right. It seemed to be right before the holiday.
SS: What do you think about what you saw in terms of people giving [0:31:00], and people sharing, and people making an effort, being within your congregation and your community? Did it give you a different sense of –? Here’s something that people don’t know about Houstonians or transplanted Houstonians or adopted Houstonians. What did this storm bring out within us or show about our community? Or maybe shine a light on some need that was already here. Tell us what you think.
GR: Well, you had already shown love and hospitality to us from Katrina. And then when Harvey came along, it was just continuing — a continuation of telling us that people in Texas care. They actually care. I have never in my life seen so many people that [0:32:00] stretch their arms out to say, “I’ll help. What can I do to help?” You know, we even had people — some young ladies that came in that said, “I need help, but I’ll come back and help volunteer.” And they did, you know, but like I say, I’ve never seen so many wonderful, nice people in all my life. Now, we are very hospitable in New Orleans.
GR: But I’ve seen much more here in Houston. I love my city now. I love my city, New Orleans. But I love Houston, too. And I’m often asked, “Are you going back home?” “Lord’s willing, no.”
SS: It couldn’t have been an easy decision to make Houston your permanent home. Could you have ever imagined that you would [0:33:00] end up being a Houstonian? And we think of you as the fabric of this community. And now, you have a larger community.
GR: No, never thought I would be out of New Orleans. To visit? Yes, I had a — I have a son. He’s a music teacher in New Orleans, and he was thinking about moving to Houston. He had acquired a job, and he has a lot of friends out here. And he was going to move out here, but to me, that was just going to be a place to visit, not to come and live. I had no idea I would leave New Orleans to live. But once I got here and I got established, I was very happy. And right away, I said, “No, I don’t want to go back to New Orleans.” After going back to visit and I saw my city — how devastated it [0:34:00] was. And I went back several times, and there was nothing being done to build it up. So I said, “This is home.” And then after, you know, getting here — and to tell you it was strange how I got to Wheeler. Because I am basically Church of God in Christ. And I went around looking for a Church of God in Christ.
SS: A COGIC sister.
GR: A COGIC. And I couldn’t find a Church of God in Christ. I went to Williams Temple, but I didn’t feel comfortable. I said, “I’m going back to Wheeler.” And I — just one Sunday — I was working at the school. I was visiting every Sunday, but I wasn’t a member. And just one Sunday, I said, “I’m here. I might as well join.”
SS: Wow, so you gained a new city, a new congregation, a new denomination [0:35:00]?
SS: It’s been an evolution. What do you think, in your unique perspective having survived both Katrina and Harvey, are some things that you learned that you wish people could keep in mind or people should think about when we talk about natural disasters, which never feel very natural when you’re going through them? But what are some things that you’d like people — if they’re in Iowa and may never be in a hurricane or sitting some place, what is it that you’d like people to know about what it’s like to survive not one of these, but two, in your case?
GR: I want them to realize how blessed they are. They are really blessed not to have to go through that devastation. And I also [0:36:00] want to say that we learn. Out of all that you acquire in life, you lose it. But you lose everything for — everything that’s done is done for a reason and a purpose. And when you go back to the Bible and you think about Job, he lost everything that he had, you know — even down to his sickness, you know. And you acquire all of this stuff, and you see how fast it’s gone. You have all of this, and then at a twinkling of an eye, it’s gone, you know. But just like the Lord gave you that, He’s going to bless you to get more. And everything that He let you acquire, it’s something for you to tell the Lord thank you for.
And I also learned that — you know how we acquire stuff and we just hold onto it [0:37:00]? Don’t do that. Don’t do that. If you have something, share it while you can. We call it downsizing. Share it while you can. If somebody’s in need of something, give it to them. Let them have it, because like I say, in the twinkling of an eye, it’s gone. But God.
SS: What were some of those stories that you can think of about things that you heard about people and the things they experienced after Harvey, Sister Rose, that touched you as someone who experienced things after Katrina? As you stood there greeting people and being a resource and being a shoulder, we never know where we’re going to be led.
SS: And obviously, it would have had to be divine for you to be there. What were some things that you heard that sounded familiar? A sense of helplessness [0:38:00] or hopelessness or not feeling a place? What were some things that people experienced, if you’re telling people who have never been through something like that? What are some feelings that you have?
GR: Well, I met people that they didn’t realize what they had. And they lost everything. Some people came in, “We don’t have any clothes to put on. We don’t have any food. We can’t go back to our house, because we lost our house.” And I could relate to all of that, because all of that had happened to me. And we just start telling each other stories of what happened. “This happened to me.” “Oh, I went through this, you know.” So we could relate to each other. So I just witnessed to them and them know that God is able. And just like He gave it to them [0:39:00] the first time, He was going to restore it back again.
You had people that came through there that was ill. Some people — you had people in wheelchairs that had a hard time getting out of their houses. They had to have boats to come and get them. And all of that happened in Katrina, you know, so I heard a whole lot of stories. But I could relate to every — just about every one of them, so.
SS: When you were going through the throes of the things you went through, just getting from the east bank to the west bank, you did something that a lot of people weren’t able to do. Just getting from there, could you have ever imagined that a few years hence, you’d be in another city in another place seeing this again? Did you ever have a sense of, “Why am I going through this,” or that your experience was going to help you be [0:40:00] allowed to bless other people?
GR: I never thought — I knew hurricane season comes every year. But like I was telling somebody yesterday, I can remember back to Hurricane Betsy in 1966 [1965, 0:40:15]. And I was — I was a ninth-grade student. And I remember being ill, and we couldn’t — I couldn’t go to school the first day. And I can remember how devastating Betsy was. Now, that was the worst hurricane I can remember, but then Katrina — we had hurricanes in between. But then when Katrina came — and then after we got here in Houston, I didn’t think we were going to go through that again. I know hurricane season was going to come, but here comes Harvey, you know. So you never know what you’re going to go through in life [0:41:00].
SS: I’m certainly no meteorologist expert, but I remember talking to someone who said that the ABC storms early in the seasons, Alicia, Betsy, Carla, for people who were here – Camille, I think was another storm – are nothing like the ones later in the season. And that later in the season, they get more and more and more powerful and devastating. And I really never knew that.
GR: Me either.
SS: I don’t know what the scientific basis of that is, but that would really put a lot of perspective to things with Katrina and what we experienced with Ike and as we experienced later in the season.
GR: Exactly. With Ike, the only thing we had to do — we went — my son insisted that I leave the house, because we didn’t have electricity. So we went to a hotel in the Galleria. Well, we got to the hotel. They had no electricity. So [0:42:00] I had this uncle here — now, he’s getting older. And I explained to them that I had to have a power surge, because he was on a breathing machine — not a breathing machine, but he did inhaling.
GR: Yeah, treatments. So they had a little generator that they let me use. But then I’m thinking — I said, “Now, I’m here in this hotel paying fees to stay in this hotel without electricity. I can go back home.” So we did go back home. And we stayed about five days, I think, without electricity. But my neighbor across the street had a generator. So we did the — we did the cross the street electricity. You did that, too? Yeah, we did the cross the street electricity. So from Ike, then [0:43:00] my children had one, Gustav, in New Orleans. So they to come to Texas. So they had to go through that, and they didn’t lose anything like they did in Katrina. But they had to come here. And then I don’t remember another bad one until Harvey.
SS: My niece in Trem�, she lost her car during Gustav. But a car is —
GR: In Gustav.
SS: – replaceable.
GR: But then in — was it last year? They had the tornados.
SS: They did.
GR: And people in New Orleans are still without roofs on their house.
SS: They had the twisters.
GR: Yeah, they had the twisters. So you never know what’s coming up.
SS: What would you want people to understand about Katrina? And what would you want people to understand about Harvey [0:44:00]? And what do you think are lessons to take from that? You’re in a unique position, having experienced them both. What should we learn? You said something poignant about not holding onto resources — well, not holding onto items and things. What do you think it says about what we experience in terms of Houston? Because Houston didn’t go through Katrina, but we certainly had a — I would like to say, a role in its recovery.
GR: They did.
SS: And what does that say about Houston? Any thoughts on that? What would you think that it says about Houston?
GR: The only thing I can say — and I don’t want to be repetitious. But the only thing I can say about Houston is there’s a lot of hospitality and love and God-fearing people in Houston.
SS: Well, we are so happy that you’re here with us, because you’re very much the spirit of Houston, even if that spirit was marinated [0:45:00] someplace else. Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your experience or anything else you’d like to share?
GR: Not really. I can’t think of anything that we haven’t gone over. I’m just — I’m just grateful that my pastor and my associate pastor thought enough of me, because like I say, I didn’t think people thought about me like that. But I’m grateful. I love my Wheeler family.
SS: And they love you, too.
GR: Now, I see. I knew this — like I said, when I was ill and I didn’t have anybody, I had sisters. And I had children, but they were in New Orleans working. And they couldn’t — I had to have — when they told me I was going to have a transplant, there were forms you had to sign. And you had to have names of caretakers. And Wheeler stepped in [0:46:00]. I had caretakers every four hours round the clock for months. So you know, now, I do know that Wheeler loves me. And I love them.
SS: And Houston, too.
SS: And Houston loves you, too. Houston loves you, too.
GR: And I definitely know that Marcus and Audrey Cosby does.
SS: They do.
GR: And Reverend Johnson.
SS: They do. This is a wonderful community. It’s a wonderful one.
GR: And I neglected to say that when I went into surgery — can I give you a little experience about my transplant?
GR: You’re on a list waiting for a transplant. You don’t know when. You don’t know where. They tell you to be prepared. So I always kept my suitcase packed in the front room. And they kept — I would go to clinic every week. And they’ll tell me, “Your MELD score is getting higher and higher, so [0:47:00] you’re going up on the list.” And Dr. Markiewicz told me — he’s a foreigner. And he’s hard to understand, but I understood him. “You’re going to be — it’s going to be soon. It’s going to be soon.” I said, “Okay.”
So when I left clinic that day, that’s what they told me. And I had my bag packed. It was during Rodeo time — March 12th. And they called me two weeks before and told me they had a liver for me. But unfortunately, they couldn’t use the liver. It was damaged, so they couldn’t use the liver. So I’m waiting. And that day, I was home by myself. And I got a phone call, and she said, “Ms. Rose, are you packed?” I said, “Yeah.” She said, “You have 45 minutes to get to the hospital.”
So same lady that brought me home when I took sick [0:48:00] — that just came to mind. The same person that brought me home when I was sick, Mildred Solomon, she was working at the daycare center. I called — two of my caretakers, Dr. Bilton and Ms. Joyce, was too far from me. They were on this side of town — to get me there in 45 minutes. I called Ms. Solomon. I said, “Ms. Solomon, I have 45 minutes to get to the hospital.” She say, “Just let me go to the bathroom.” And she came on. She lived about 15 minutes from me. We got tied up in all kind of Rodeo traffic, trying to get to Memorial Hermann.
SS: The medical center, right.
GR: Yes, and I always said — and I told everybody that when they call me for my transplant, I wanted Reverend Lawson to anoint me and pray for me before I went in surgery. And when I got there, they were waiting for me at the emergency room door. They started hooking up IVs, because I don’t know if you know anything about [0:49:00] liver transplants. But you have to —
SS: Time is crucial.
GR: Unfortunately, you’re getting this — you’re getting this liver from someone who passed away.
GR: So this person — you don’t know who your donor is. But this person, evidently, was on a respirator. So time was of essence. So they started working on me. They called Reverend Lawson. And that’s why I’m so grateful to him, because he made his way by himself. They were — his daughter was waiting to bring him to Memorial Hermann. He had gotten in his car and made his way to Memorial Hermann. And he went in surgery with me. And he anointed me and prayed for me. And that surgery was nine hours. I had no fright — none whatsoever. The doctor asked me if I was frightened. I said, “No, God is with me.” And I felt comfortable after Pastor Lawson had [0:50:00] prayed for me.
And I came through, and I’m grateful. So that’s one of the reasons. Like I said before, if I was ever able to do anything anymore, I do not want my life to be in vain. I want to do all I can. And the Lord has really blessed, because I filled out an application to volunteer at the Manna House. And I was waiting and waiting. And the president of the board called me and asked me if I would like to be the manager. That gives me another opportunity to serve people.
SS: One of the largest food banks here in the city.
GR: And some of the same people that I served with Harvey, I’m serving at the Manna House. I meet some of the — “I remember you. You were at Wheeler.” And it’s a —
SS: Servant leader.
GR: You’re right. It’s a — it’s a privilege to [0:51:00] be able to do that — to serve. And I’m really grateful that they gave me the opportunity.
SS: That’s an amazing story, Sister Rose. Can you think of anything, Dr. Romero?
TR: No, just thank you for your time and for all that you’ve given to our city.
GR: Well, I appreciate it. And I thank you for giving me this opportunity. Now, you said the church is going to get a copy of this.
TR: Yeah, it will take us a little while to get it transcribed, but we’ll give it back to Reverend Johnson. When I talked to him about doing these interviews, maybe a few months after — I think it was right before you all wrapped up the distribution center. You were the first person he mentioned to me. And so I’ve heard a lot about you. That’s one of the things that’s so surprising about this interview. You didn’t — you didn’t know that people had been talking about you. But you — your big, big heart is renowned.
GR: Thank you. So they’re going to let me see the copy when [0:52:00] you make it.
TR: Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
SS: [Unclear, 0:52:02].
GR: I have a copy of an interview I did at the school — why I’m not thinking? Her name — she’s a newscaster on Channel 26. She’s black. She’s basically out and around the city. She’s not on every day. What’s her name?
TR: I’ll see if I can find her.
SS: It’s not Melinda, because Melinda is —
GR: No, not Melinda. I know Melinda Spaulding. She is a member here.
SS: She’s a member. She’s a congregant.
GR: Yeah, she’s a member.
SS: And TSU snapped her up, so we’re very happy.
SS: That’s right. She’s off of 26. There’s —
GR: Damali Keith.
SS: Oh, okay.
GR: Damali Keith. I have a — I have a tape — a DVD at home that she did an interview with me for [0:53:00] Harvey.
SS: After Harvey?
GR: After Harvey.
SS: And it ran on the air?
GR: It did.
GR: If you would like to see it, I can — if you tell me how to get it to you.
SS: Well, I bet you I can —
GR: It’s a DVD.
SS: It’s a DVD?
SS: And if it was done — I bet we can look. I’ll see if I can find it as well just in case — or certainly, to get the DVD, we can definitely do that.
GR: It was done on Channel 26. And it was myself, my uncle — she even went to the house to see how he got around on his walker — and my little nephew, who was in the hurricane.
SS: Now, this was after Katrina or after Harvey?
GR: After Katrina.
SS: Oh, okay. I’m sorry. I was thinking after Harvey.
GR: Yeah, this was after Katrina, yeah.
SS: Okay, okay, wow.
GR: So if you find a way, I’ll get it to you if you would like to see it.
TR: And one of the things that I’d mentioned to Reverend Johnson is we’re partnering with FotoFest, which is an arts organization in the city. And they’re doing — I think it’s going to be two hours that will [0:54:00] have — where people come and tell short stories — maybe 5, 10 minutes. And I don’t know if that’s something that you would want to participate in. But if you would, it’s a way of telling your story and telling Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church’s participation. And one of the things that I was telling Dr. or Reverend Johnson, I’m interested. I live over here in East End. And so my boys go to school sort of up Cullen. And I feel like our side of the city doesn’t — our stories don’t get told as often. And so one of the things I’ve wanted to do is get our stories told more often.
GR: I’ll be more than happy.
TR: Okay. Well, I’ll contact you about it.
TR: I think what would happen is — I’m going to talk about the oral history project briefly. There’s a young woman who did — who’s from Meyerland who did a bunch of interviews in Meyerland. Because the storms impacted that community in a lot of ways, because the Jewish community moved there. And there’s questions about whether that sort of center [0:55:00] of Jewish life is going to be able to be viable in the future if we continue to have these storms and the bayou keeps coming up.
GR: Right, right, right, right.
TR: But I would love to have Wheeler’s stories as well.
GR: Let me know.
TR: I will.
GR: Let me know. You know, to think about some things, you never know about them. And pastor used to have retreats, but now, we in the building process. So we don’t have big things like that again. But I never thought — you know how things happen and you don’t really think about it? I had only been here maybe a year or two. And I was voted employee of the year. But that never dawned on me to tell her.
SS: They think a lot more of you even if you don’t hear it every day.
GR: I see. I see.
SS: And his experience is — I’m echoing that. You’re seen as that — a servant leader. And that’s [0:56:00] high praise. This church has some pretty high standards for community servers and sense of service. And some of us, they’re still working on us. They’re still working on us.
GR: Do you — do you visit?
SS: I am actually a member, although I tend to go to later service. So my oldest sister is a member. She was a 7:15. And she sang in Celestial, but her health has been failing. And my next oldest —
GR: And what’s your sister’s name?
SS: Her name is Linda McElroy.
SS: And then my next sister actually lives at WALIPP. She does not — she hasn’t been a Wheeler member. She’s Catholic, but she lives at WALIPP. And so it’s funny. So my family history has been interwoven with this very —
GR: With Wheeler.
SS: – with Wheeler. And so I tend to worship later in the day as we do. Or sometimes, I am what is affectionately called a bedside Baptist [0:57:00].
GR: Okay, I did that.
SS: Because we livestream.
GR: I did that the whole four years I was sick.
SS: Yes, the livestreaming makes a real difference. It’s very dynamic and very important. And it makes a difference to my students, so now that I’m at U of H and at TSU both, I always joke that, you know, Wheeler is in the middle. If they could just give me an office here, I’d be perfect. I would be —
TR: Give it time. Give it time.
SS: I would be perfect.
GR: Give it time, huh?
SS: That would be — but so anyway, thank you so much.
GR: Well, the next — before Sunday — the first and second Sunday, if you come through this building, I’m going to have a table out there for the senior citizens — for the Senior Saints conference in September, so give me a holler if you pass through.
SS: You know I will. See, you’re —
GR: And you need to come visit Wheeler.
SS: I’ve seen you, but we haven’t known each other. So now —
TR: I was telling her. I have a little nine-year-old who wants — when I told him I was doing interviews — he loves going to church. And he wanted to go — he wanted to know if he could [0:58:00] go to this church.
GR: Of course.
TR: I said we can come.
GR: There’s so much for him.
TR: I was telling Sherridan. He’s always very concerned about doing the right thing. He said, “No, that’s an African-American church. Would it be disrespectful if we went?”
TR: And I said, “No, I don’t think it would be disrespectful. Will you be well-behaved?” He’s like, “Yeah, I’ll be well-behaved.”
GR: Tell him it’s a peoples’ church.
SS: It is.
TR: Yeah, that’s right.
GR: It’s a peoples’ church. And there’s AWANA on Wednesday nights he would enjoy.
SS: That’s right, a great children’s center ministry.
GR: AWANA on Wednesday nights.
GR: Yeah, he would enjoy that.
SS: He would. He would.
GR: And as he gets older, when he makes 11, he can go through the boys’ rights of passage. He would really enjoy — then we have the Cub Scouts.
TR: Oh, really?
GR: On Saturdays.
SS: Single, largest number of Eagle Scouts in one congregation and the largest number of Eagle Scouts of color in the entire country out of Wheeler.
TR: I bet. That’s what my boys —
SS: I had to throw that out there. Just saying.
GR: They would enjoy it. They really would [0:59:00].
TR: So I think I’ve seen them at the — so my boys do Cub Scouts, but they have — every year at — usually, it’s at — I think it’s George R. Brown, but it might have been at the baseball stadium, Minute Maid. But I think I saw the Wheeler crew, because it’s a big group.
SS: It’s a big group. He would — there is a lot for him here. And he would love it. In fact, we had a diverse family join at the one o’clock on Sunday.
GR: Right, right.
SS: Yes, at one o’clock. And they were — first, they have the visitors stand. And then they ask everybody. And we do a little welcome. We sing a Wheeler welcome.
SS: And later on, you know, they have someone they — you know, they say, “Can we get your information?” And the pastor writes a letter, so it’s something he may find special. He really would enjoy it.
GR: We have 7:15 —
UNKNOWN: Excuse me. Do you know how much longer? Because Endra has to leave.
TR: Oh, okay.
GR: Oh, okay.
GR: We have 7:15, 9:00, 11:00, and 1:00 [1:00:00].
GR: Thank you so much.
TR: Ms. Rose, thank you so much for your time.
SS: Thank you. What a blessing.
GR: Thank you, darling. I’ll be looking to see you.
SS: So now when you see me, you’ll know.
GR: Can somebody give me a telephone number or something?
SS: I’m going to flag you down. Yes, ma’am. I’ll do that right — I thought I had a card right out here for you. I’m going to make sure that you —
TR: It’s my last one.
SS: Oh, there you go. There we go.
GR: Thank you.
SS: Absolutely. Thank you so much.
TR: Thank you so much, Ms. Rose.
GR: Thank you.
SS: Thank you. I’m sorry about —
TR: [Unclear, 1:00:29]. [1:00:29].