Public History graduate student Saneea Sakhyani interviewed Meyerland resident, Nirayl Cororve, for the “Neighborhood Narratives” component of the “Resilient Houston: Oral History Project.” This project is part of the UH Center for Public History’s preservation efforts to document Hurricane Harvey’s impact on various Houston communities.
The oral history interview took place at Nirayl’s new residence in Meyerland, which her family had to re-locate to after their home flooded during the storm. In this interview, Nirayl discusses living in Meyerland, the impact of Harvey on her family and community, post-Harvey efforts at re-building, and future plans.
Notes for reader: Interviewer’s notes throughout are enclosed within parenthesis. Emotions and relevant pauses of both interviewer and interviewee are included in parenthesis, or alternatively, italics are used to add emphasis on words to represent spoken tone. Hyphens are used to show breaks in thought, or an exchange between narrator and interviewer.
Start of transcript
SS: So, today is March 19, 2018. This is Saneea Sakhyani interviewing (puts recorder toward Nirayl to speak her name)
NC: Nirayl Cororve
SS: Nice to meet you, again, (laughs)…for the Neighborhood Narratives component of the Resilient Houston Oral History Project with the Center for Public History at the University of Houston. This interview is taking place at your home.
NC: Yep (yes).
SS: Can you tell me a little bit about where you live currently, you know when you moved here, um you know how long you’ve lived here and so on.
NC: Okay, so we moved here about two, two and a half weeks post-Harvey…um we were staying with friends up until that point.
SS: Mhmm (these are used as in agreement or acknowledgment of what was said).
NC: So we’ve been living here I guess mid – from the middle of September – we’re in the Braeswood Place subdivision so right near Reliant um Reliant Park.
SS: Can you tell me a little bit about where you used to live and the transition?
NC: Sure. So we were in Meyerland, in the North side of Meyerland, um and um so on a street called Darnell, and so when we – and we flooded Sunday morning of Harvey – we left that Sunday morning and went to stay with friends for about two weeks two and a half weeks – first set of friends and then another set of friends – and then we were lucky enough to – through some ups and downs of finding a place to live – we were lucky enough we found this house and moved in on a Friday, about two and a half weeks later.
SS: Okay so how long have you lived in Meyerland?
NC: So we have lived – my husband actually grew up in Meyerland, um his parents still live in their home in Meyerland, they did not flood thankfully – and um we have lived in Meyerland um we moved in 2001 so (pause) now what is that seventeen, (laughs) seventeen years! So yeah seventeen, we yeah moved in about December 2001.
SS: And then before that?
NC: Before that we actually lived right around this area (laughs) we’ve kind of come full circle (laughs). We lived right by Rice University on a street called um Dryden. And so we lived there in a duplex for about a year after we got married and then when we bought a house we bought it in Meyerland.
SS: Wow, so you’ve been here for quite some time (laughs).
NC: Yes (smiles).
SS: Where did you grow up?
NC: In South Africa.
SS: Can you tell me a little bit about that?
NC: Yeah sure, so we – I was born in South Africa in Pretoria – and we moved here with my family with my parents my brother and my sister in 1986. Uh when we moved here, we moved to Fondren Southwest, which is kind of southwest of Meyerland, um and so that’s where I went –
and grew up and went – to high school that’s where I was. And then I went to college in Atlanta, moved to Atlanta for a while and came back here for law school.
SS: And where did you’re… the rest of your family go off to?
NC: So parents now live in the Galleria area –
SS: Right, and they did not flood –
NC: They did not flood. The Galleria just never floods. Yes, I don’t know, something –
SS: Something about that area (laughs)
NC: (Laughs) Yeah, it’s been miracle-ized.
My sister actually lives in the south side of Meyerland.
SS: Okay –
NC: And the house two doors from her flooded and stopped, like I don’t know how. So she’s never flooded before either but they did not flood.
And then my brother lives in Spring, and so that was not as hard hit from Harvey so thankfully he was okay, too.
SS: Wow. Um. In the – I’m just going to back track a little bit. In the – you mentioned like kind of this transition –
NC: Yeah –
SS: That you had to go through to move homes. How do you see that experience as like kind of reflected to what’s going on post-Harvey?
NC: You know it’s really interesting because um my husband and I were saying the other day when we left – it kind of all happened in the morning and we left we never really – you’re kind of in the moment and you don’t really think about it – so when we left, we never really thought about not – that we are going back for a while – it was just kind of like okay you – you know you get your stuff together and you leave and we were kind of reflective six months later, you never thought you would be six months from then and kind of how slow the process is post-Harvey, like nothing, nothing happens quickly so it’s like probably for the best you’re kind of in the moment doing what you need to be doing but you’re not really thinking down the road, which um so I think probably that has been the most – I don’t want to say – each moment has been okay, like we haven’t it’s we’ve kind of taken each moment as it has come – but when you sit down and think about it your like oh my god had we known then it probably almost would have been harder, knowing then, if we knew then what we know now – but thankfully you don’t so your kind of just go through the motions when it’s happening…
SS: Mhmm, right right –
NC: Um, but it’s interesting because Houston especially, you know certain areas didn’t flood at all, so people have kind of gone and like you know, yeah Harvey, but then there are certain people that you realize that it takes years to kind of recover and get back to where you were before, in whatever format that might be.
NC: Um, you know and it’s interesting, well obviously we’ve know a lot of people that have flooded in Meyerland and other areas and quite a few lawyers I work with in my office flooded kind of on the west side, some North of 610, and it’s interesting to see all of their experiences as well in different areas of Houston because you know Meyerland goes through its own process and then they go through their own process and you know the ones that flooded post – when they released the waters – they flooded after Harvey, you know it’s all kind of a different process and it’s interesting to see a) based on the area they live in, how that process goes and also kind of the different stage in life and what they end up deciding to do or not do, move back or not or yeah.
SS: What’s some of these aspects of like your experience as, what you see you know how these different areas have their own processes; what would you say is Meyerland’s process?
NC: Well I think Meyerland is very unique, in the sense that it is now a three-time flood in a very limited period of time. For us, our first flood thankfully, so it’s a different story, but um the minute you say Meyerland, people ohhhh, and you know you almost have to say we’ve never flooded before, like Meyerland’s kind of sadly in the past few years become synonymous with flooding, more so than the other areas in Harvey that flooded. So um I think Meyerland – I don’t want to say suffered the worst – but I think the fact that there have been two major floods right before, um really has made it go through somewhat of an existential crisis of some sort (laughs) as to how to continue, a lot of people have decided to leave. My husband and I were saying I mean, we don’t want to do this again – you know the people who have now done it once, twice, three times, I don’t know how, you really kind of keep going through that. So I definitely think Meyerland has kind of – I don’t want to say Meyerland suffered the most through Harvey, but it definitely has had a harder time post-Harvey just because it is kind of now one. You know people are definitely little more reluctant to just kind of come than other neighborhoods where it really hasn’t happened before.
SS: Mhmm –
NC: It’s harder to chalk it up to just be like oh my god it was just a freak hurricane, and yeah so…
SS: What do you think about ways that people are kind of saying well, you know we want to stay here, but what about raising houses, what about – I’ve been hearing a lot you know in the news about these different methods, people are talking about buy-outs and all this. Can you talk about a little bit about that?
NC: Sure, so (pause) you know first of all, there’s this big – I don’t want to say conspiracy theory, but a thought process – that post-Allison the way they re-routed the water, the bayous, has had an impact on Meyerland that has never been proven or not proven or I don’t think it was ever a consequence, it might have been an unnatural consequence, but there’s no question that flooding increased post-Allison directly in Meyerland. So it has definitely made people really think about you know what to do next, more so than other neighborhoods, um I think people who can afford to do something such as raising or tearing down and building up are doing it. I think it’s just the people that just can’t, they take whatever money they can get and they fix it up and they just hope for the best. I think the people who are able to do something, the neighbor – I see it already – the neighborhood’s going to be completely different I think in three years. I mean either the houses are just going to be raised, or their just going to be – you know there are already a bunch of new neighborhoods on the South – new houses on the South side – and I think that will be even more so in the next two years, it will look completely different than it does now and I think even the older people if they are choosing just to fix, when they leave, retire or leave, or die and sell, that those houses are then going to turn around and I just foresee pretty much the entire neighborhood just being built up in the next five years or so.
SS: Mhmm, how do you think that’s going to impact the way that these homes are going to function during flooding?
NC: Um, you know, I think – you know it’s interesting because I would say especially on the South side, after two floods, there were a lot of built up houses and most of the new construction houses are all built up now, and um it’s interesting to see almost the survivor’s guilt of the people who are in those built up homes to then watch their neighbors flood. I know it’s been really hard on a lot of people. The first time, and especially even the second or third time… we have friends who have a brand new house, they’ve lived there for a few years, and they were kind of the refuge for a lot of their neighbors, and they are looking to sell because they were like they don’t want to go through that with their neigh – they were fine, but it’s a) now hard to be in a neighborhood that’s somewhat deserted, you know you’re like the only one left on their street or you know, in a few streets. And then also just kind of to know that it’s going to happen again, and kind of have that again I think it’s really hard. I think in, like I said in five years when they are all built up, I think it will be much better, when some people, you know when you’re not having six houses on a street flood, and two not, or… so I think hopefully, um I think Meyerland is too valuable of an area, people – it’s a good neighborhood, good schools, close to everything, you know that, I don’t see people just leaving, I just think it’s going to completely change.
SS: Mhmm. So how has your life changed, or has it, since moving between these houses, because like you mentioned that you had a son, so in terms of his schooling, has anything changed?
NC: So, luckily for us, our kids were in private schools so theoretically we did not have to change schools, we would not have to – we would have been not be forced to – change schools because we still have our house – so they could have maintained – HISD – you could still stay wherever you were. But we were very fortunate to stay in a very similar geographic location um so it hasn’t impacted too much in terms of schooling and extracurricular – we were very mindful in the beginning if we had any choice to stay in this similar kind of area so we would not uproot the kids too much. We started looking at houses in other areas and we were – we said if it could work we would like to kind of stay nearby, so thankfully that – that part, that piece of it – was as normal as possible.
SS: That’s really great, yeah.
SS: What about, you know – so I’ve understood that many people in this area are Jewish and their life is kind of influenced by the different Jewish institutions. Is that the case for your family or…?
NC: So, yeah, I would definitely – so um the synagogue we belong to, we belong to Beth Yeshurun, which also flooded, as well. And that’s the school that my youngest – I have three children – that my youngest daughter goes to. And so yes, on top of us flooding, the synagogue flooded and then my daughter’s school flooded, and so (laughs) it was a lot of changes in general. You know it was interesting. First of all, you feel a lot of guilt because you can’t help –
you know your daughter’s school, or your synagogue the place where you grew up, that you’re trying to, you’re busy with your own stuff um so initially you’re like oh my goodness it felt like this whole thing was happening without us since we were dealing with our own situation. And I think that the Jewish community felt that very strongly because normally we are a very tightknit community and everybody tries to help but there were so many people impacted as well as so many of our institutions impacted, that it was almost – the people who didn’t flood, it was almost like they didn’t even know where to divide their time. But it definitely – my daughter had to change school locations for the first semester they moved somewhere else. Um we’re definitely – you know things aren’t quite back to normal, but um I will give you know Beth Yeshurun a lot of credit, they still somehow even in their difficulties found a way to support – their members found a way to support the other members that didn’t – flooded. So you know they bought meals, they still were able to provide support services even while they were trying to dry out themselves. But it’s definitely been um challenging I think for the Jewish community because it wasn’t only them there was a Jewish retirement home that flooded, the Jewish Community Center flooded, I mean so many institutions that people rely on, um it was actually a really amazing test of resilience as to how they kind of made it all work and continue to make it all work because it’s going to take a long time.
SS: Right. Where do you see things kind of as they are right now, if you see any progress that’s been made, and where things are kind of going to move forward with the Jewish community?
NC: So, you know the thing is when people say well we should just – you know Meyerland’s not sustainable anymore – we should just up and move, and not so easy because everything’s still here and clearly the synagogues that flooded are maintaining their locations and fixing what they need to and taking care of that…the Jewish Community Center, the same. And so, for people that want to stay near those institutions, they are not going to up and move to a different neighborhood. So I def. – that’s another reason where I think people are just going to you know continue to stay in Meyerland but maybe just in a different format, or you know a raised house or a built up house or something like that. Um I think, you know there is an orthodox synagogue, United Orthodox, that flooded – that’s where my parents belong – it is now flooded three times, um it’s right on the bayou, and they have decided they are tearing it down and going to build up somehow. But you know the problem there – and it’s been this huge struggle within their community – these people are really traditional and so it means on the Sabbath they walk – they don’t drive – their community’s very geared towards living with your neighbors and walking to people’s houses and you know on the Sabbath and being close knit, so you know being far away and driving in is not an option. It’s been a huge struggle for the synagogue because by staying where they, they are forcing their members to stay where they are – is that dooming them – all of them have now flooded three times and as much as three years and so are you dooming your members for the same fate, so you may build up but you know your members – and but then on the flip side most of the members can’t afford to go anywhere anyway, so if you moved away, it’s really somewhat of an existential crisis for the synagogue as to – you know some synagogues are less traditional you know if some of the people drive or they live a little further away it’s not as hard, but especially for this one it’s been a real big problem as to whether they stay, whether they go and what do they do. There’s been one talk about maybe if they build apartments to help people, you know so the synagogue would be a part of an apartment building so for people that couldn’t afford to go so you know their trying to – they realize it’s somewhat of a package deal with the community itself. Um…so…But they are going to tear down that building; they can’t keep doing the same thing. So it will be interesting to see how that really impacts the neighborhood, it’s you know around Greenwillow/Brays Bayou area and how that impacts them specifically. They are definitely the – I don’t want to say the most impacted – but just having flooded three times now it’s been a real hardship for that neighborhood especially.
SS: Do you feel like there’s a somewhat, you know, similar situation around like the community that is not as orthodox in relation to like JCC (Jewish Community Center) or you know the synagogue that you belong to?
NC: I think it is more a convenience factor than a religious factor, so it makes it a little bit, slightly different, just as challenging but in a different way. So, you know, most people want to live in a community, whether you live in Sienna or you live in Katy or you live in – you want to, you kind of want to live where your kids go to school, and where their friends are, and where their activities are, and kind of maintain a, you know communal feel, and I think that’s where it impacts. So for kids that go to the day schools that are part of these synagogues or participate in activities that are part of the Jewish Community Center, or even a lot of their friends all live you know – most of my kids friends live in Meyerland, Bellaire, and surrounding areas so yeah it definitely – it makes people want stay in the area you know moving out is not as much of an option. You know it’s hard to almost uproot an entire community. So um I foresee – you now some people we know that did flood sold – mostly in Meyerland – did sell but they moved to Bellaire, or they stayed within the area. So they might be out of Meyerland but they are still in the general vicinity.
SS: For you personally, how you know – you mentioned that things have been going a little bit slowly, and that’s one of the harder things. Can you elaborate a little more on like, kind of how these different aspects of your life, how they are rooted with your family and this area, kind of if there are other changes that have been happening or other struggles that you’ve had?
NC: Well, I think that the whole thing is, it’s more that you know it happens and there are so many things that have to happen – you know when – when…I’m trying to think of a different event – when there is an event that happens, very often there is like a clear path as to what happens next. I think these kinds of natural disasters, or flood such as this, there’s no real clear answer, or what exactly, you know it makes you really sit and think, and so many factors then go into the decision. So you know part of the thing when I said that I never thought that we would never think in six months where exactly we would be, but you know thankfully we had flood insurance, so part of this slow process is dealing with that, the flood insurance, because no decisions can really be made on what you’re doing until you really know what’s going to happen with your flood insurance and all of that so it’s almost – life goes on hold for a while because you can’t make any decisions. Um for some people – you know a very good friend flooded for the first time on Memorial Day – they live on the South Side of Meyerland – and they knew right away once they flooded they were going to tear the house down and build up on the same land but they weren’t going to do it again. And so from day 1, or week 2, whatever, that’s what they started working towards. For us, being our first flood, we weren’t a hundred percent sure what we wanted to do so we kind of had to go down two different paths at the same time. So, we were working with a contractor to figure out what would a renovation and a fix be, and then we were working – started doing work with a builder as to if we tore it down, what would that be, or just in general selling the lot as is and moving. There was kind of three different paths happening at the same time, and decisions couldn’t be made until we heard from the insurance or we knew different piece – there were so many different pieces of the puzzle – and so I think that’s kind of the slow part, it was almost like – I said to somebody for about six months, we were moving sideways, it was like it was all getting – but we were not moving forward and I think that part of it took much longer to come to a decision, um for us, I think everybody kind of has their own story. We have another good friend that flooded, they had just renovated the house so to them they weren’t tearing it down, they weren’t doing anything, they were just going to fix it and move back in, and so they’re already back in their house. Um, it took longer than they thought because of the contract – but so I think everybody with their own trajectory you know faces their own time frame but I do think for people like us who kind of never expected it or never really – it definitely was slower in deciding for how we were going to move forward. And I think that’s kind of been the hardest part for the kids especially, kind of like, okay what are we doing what are we doing and when do we go back, and you know they like answers and for a long time, we didn’t really have any to give so um…so I think that was kind of the most challenging part.
SS: Right. Is there um, you know the home that you guys had to leave – is it, do you have an idea like is it going to be livable or it was so bad –
NC: So, we ourselves took in about a foot of water, which compared to others is not so bad, but it’s, you know more than, we realized water does a lot of damage. Um so we remediated the house right away because we weren’t sure what we wanted to do. So in theory, it’s safe – it is quote unquote safe – to move back into it and fix it and all of that. We have decided that we are going to tear the house down and build up because we want to build up, not because you know, and so now kind of now we have seen from friends who have flooded multiple times that’s it’s almost like you do it the first time, if you don’t do it the first time, then you’re kind of stuck doing what you keep doing, and there’s no right or wrong answer, it’s just we’ve decided you know what we are just going to start again, and tear it down and build it back up.
SS: Right, right. Do you foresee this taking a long time or…?
NC: So, um, yes (laughs). Much longer than we thought –
SS: Right (laughs) –
NC: Uh so we imagine it’s probably – all in we will probably be out of the house for about two years – before we – you know by the time, you know six months have gone already, I imagine by the time they start building with the permit – because now getting permits for construction is Houston is not so easy – and all of that is – so we anticipate about a two year process from start to finish. Part of the big deal with Meyerland – and it’s been on the news a little bit – is Meyerland is divided into different sections and – a lot of different sections – and each section has their own different deed restrictions. And so there’s been some very antiquated deed restrictions that they’ve been trying to get rid of forever, um and it really hinders new construction because the rules of about where your property lines are and front facing garages and all kinds of boring stuff I never thought I would even think about or consider or whatever. So part of the issue for Meyerland has been this major push to get these revised deed restrictions done. So for us, the way we’re designing our house, would not – Meyerland would not approve of it the way the deed restrictions are right now- so we even have to wait a little longer that hopefully they’ll get – you know they have to get 51% of each section to sign on to it, and so we are hoping that should happen soon, and that we would be able to present our plans to Meyerland – and the city and to Meyerland – to get them approved. But that’s been one kind of quote on unquote controversial thing in Meyerland is getting these deed restrictions – and the Meyerland Improvement Association is very supportive of the deed restrictions, it’s not the association it’s the people, you know the residents, there’s some older residents who are just holding onto the way, the way things used to be (laughs) um, but, there’s definitely progress in that regard. So these are things you don’t even think about, it’s like okay well we could be ready but we can’t do it yet so we have to wait, so.
SS: That makes sense –
NC: Yeah –
SS: Yeah, I had no idea –
NC: Yeah no –
SS: about all of all these different factors –
NC: No so it’s like all these little – and then, you know, another big thing is now um the Mayor – so Harris County passed their own regulations now about how to face flood and how to build and how high you have to go – and the Mayor wants to go even higher than what Harris County proposed and that would be five – what would that be I think – five feet up and it’s pretty high – and I understand why and I support his wanting to you know, protect the city and its resources and all of that so part of it for us is a race to submit our stuff to the permitting office before that passes because we’re not going as high as they want us to. We don’t think we need – like I said I support the city and what they’re doing – but we don’t feel like we need to go that high, so um that’s also another thing where like its race against the clock to try and get it submitted before then, but we’ll see.
SS: About how high would you guys be going up?
NC: So we would be going – it ends up being about – four feet from where we are now, four and a half feet. So we flooded a foot, so it would give us three extra feet from Harvey and um –
SS: That’s good –
NC: Pretty much between – we all say, if we flood then kind of the entire city is under water. I mean at some point we just have be like we’re all out. So um I just – you know we have a friend whose building in Braes Heights – moved out of Meyerland – and building in Braes Heights and she’s building on top of her garage, she’s doing it ten feet up, and I get it, but kind of back to the conversation we had earlier, where um you don’t want to be the last one standing in your neighborhood either so it’s like – if we flooded you know four feet up, the rest of our neighborhood is probably too, versus if you’re ten feet up, yes you’ll never flood again but you’re going to be on your own kind of private island, and also the thought of bringing in groceries at ten feet up is you know – or living – it’s just living in a different way, it’s like a beach house, it’s not exactly the way we want to live but I understand some people, you know obviously it’s a very personal choice.
SS: Right. Yeah, I mean I can’t imagine kind of what goes in, like the fear too, as part of that kind of decision.
NC: Yeah, absolute – and we have a friend, too – the one that flooded in Memorial – they had just moved back into the house two months before Harvey hit, and it came close – closer than they would have ever liked – I mean they were not near flooding but it was going up the stairs and she just – she said to me I remember that morning she’s like if water comes in my house, I’m just closing the door and I’m just never, like that’s it we’re out. So there is some more of that, it’s like we’re going to build as well as we can, but also to live, and so, look we’re very cognizant of the factors – climate change, Houston’s change – you know things are changing so sadly these storms will be more normal than they used to be. So being prepared for that but at the same time, you know, not being too – you know, not going too crazy.
SS: Right. What are some of these factors do you think that are part of this changing aspect of Houston?
NC: Um, I think it’s – something – no pun intended, but a perfect storm of growth – you know urban growth, climate change, um bayou re-structuring, you know the water has to go somewhere, so when I said about Allison, nobody knows if that was a factor or not a factor but it kind of – it was interesting timing. I think as they try and figure out where to route the water to, it has negative impacts on different neighborhoods, and I think these neighborhoods are constantly changing so um I definitely think – I mean the underlying factor for sure is climate change. I’m not a scientist but I – you know as these storms, whether in Houston or Puerto Rico or, are coming more and more so – and more intense – and so for cities like Houston who does have major urban growth, a lot of concrete, flat landscape, you know with a stronger storm like this it’s just less able to handle it, you know so if you get this much rain in this period of time, there’s just really nowhere – no matter how sophisticated these bayou’s are – there’s just nowhere for the water to go. So our decision in building up was very much in recognition of things aren’t going to better, they’re going to get worse. I think so. This was not a once in a lifetime flood, I don’t think.
SS: Mhmm. So, how do you – how was Hurricane Harvey and all of this kind of movement that you’ve had to go through, and these experiences – has it or has it not change the way that you view Houston?
NC: Umm – I think – well number one, without a doubt, we always loved Houston, but had a growing – like just a major growing appreciation of the people that like make up Houston. I mean, you know I joke, I said the army of angels, but it truly was the weeks after the floods, these people that just showed up at your house and helped (laughs) and I remember when I went to go help a friend pack up after Memorial Day, thinking oh my god I can’t imagine anything worse than people helping you pack up your drawers and like packing stuff up for you, and like but when you’re in the moment you’re just so grateful that somebody’s helping you, you don’t even care what- but I think – so I think just the attitude of Houston and the people willing – I mean I had people reach out to me, not just friends, but just people and professionally and from out of state and just really, the makeup of Houston and its people are just phenomenal – and I knew it before but I definitely saw it – you know even the people who were affected themselves, still gave of themselves you know. And I think also just the resiliency of Houston. I mean yes, we’re all – you know it’s going to take years for us to kind of go back to normal – but the city kind of went back to normal very quickly. Um people are still feeling affected, and the courts downtown are a mess – you know there’s a lot of things people don’t realize – that you know the Houston Ballet is not where it should be – you know it’s going to take years for the city to get back to normal, but you know you go to New Orleans now – and you see it – you know nobody ever thought after Katrina it would ever be the same. And I think these cities do change but they do come back. And I think Houston has that – also like New Orleans – that fight – that I think that, it’s you know, its impressive its ability to kind of be like okay, we’ve weathered the storm and we’re just going to kind of go on. So. That’s what I would say.
SS: So do you – and I, you know hesitate to ask this, because who knows right – but do you see yourself kind of staying in Houston if things all go according to plan with raising the house or…?
NC: I think so, I think so. I mean you know we – my husband and I – have lived in different places and Houston’s definitely our home, um our kids love it here, um it’s a great place – it really is a great place to live, I mean not in August or September (both laugh), but it’s a really great place to live. So yeah I don’t foresee us going anywhere, I really don’t um – storms or
otherwise – I mean I think there’s kind of bad weather – you know you could pick and choose, it could be a blizzard, it could be a… I don’t think the storm or maybe even more storms could force us – you know I hope it could never force us to leave. So.
SS: Do you think there are kind of similar sentiments in people that you may know, like around the community?
NC: I think so, I think so. I think the people who are most affected – clearly (unclear words) I mean it’s obvious but – the people that have flooded multiple times are the ones I think are really grappling with it. You know for us, it was freak thing – for now, hopefully a one-time thing – and hopefully we’ll take care of things so it will only be a one-time thing – I think for the people who flooded Memorial Day and thought it would never happen again and then Tax Day, and then I think those are the people that are really struggling with, not only moving out of the area, but moving out of Houston – like what’s the best choice, you know – and I think they’re the ones who are having a harder time figuring out what’s the best thing to do.
SS: Do you think, you know – well I guess let me say – how do you – you talked about this a little bit earlier – but how do you see, you know, recovery with the different Jewish institutions and the community and the city of Houston – how do you kind of see that in the next few years?
NC: I think, I think a) it will make the community stronger – I think it has already made the community stronger, I think sometimes realizing – you know you take things for granted until you potentially could lose something – and your like, oh, no that’s really valuable or – I think the coming together of the community and really saying, no these are important things to us, like no we’re going to preserve them, or we’re going fix them, or um know that this is a priority to us, I think that’s been a positive – I think it’s definitely forced people to be like no we’re not, we’re not ready to loose these things, so I think all the peoples efforts are in fixing, preserving, making them – and I think that they will be better for it, you know so. I think some of these institutions have also gone through their own personal, okay now what do we do, do we stay, do we go, do we fix, do we – how does this look or how does this play out, I think that’s been hard for them. But I think ultimately as a community, I definitely think people have realized the value in all of these places, and they’re not going – you know, they’re not going anywhere.
SS: Mhmm. Besides the, you know like the religious institutions, are there other parts of the – different places that make up the Jewish community?
NC: Umm, well you know – there’s – so there’s this – mainly in Meyerland – so there’s – a lot of the synagogues are in Meyerland –
SS: Right, right –
NC: And then the Jewish community is in Meyerland. And then, and then because there’s a bigger concentration that then leads to grocery stores that carry kosher food or um bakeries that you know make more traditional food, or you know like in all cultures, you know you go along Hillcroft and there’s a lot of Indian – you know it kind of lends itself to okay well – so I think that’s also why the value of any community – ethnic community – and why they tend to live in a similar area is because the things are all there. And it’s not just religious, it’s cultural. It’s, it’s, um like I said, even just friendships and community – and then, you know you – the bagel shop is right there or you get the – so I definitely – part of it’s food and restaurants, part of it’s you know religion, part of it’s culture. So it’s definitely a little of everything, it’s not just the religious – you know kind of like the religious institutions almost bring people to why they end up here, but then everything else follows and it’s not so easy to just um go somewhere – you know people who move out, still come to Meyerland if they need x, y, and – you know that’s kind of just where it is. And so yeah, I think some people will leave, I mean, and the Jewish communities in Sugarland and the Woodlands, I mean there’s major growing Jewish communities around Houston that – unless anything – even after three floods, I don’t see a big shift going in it – going from – where the center being around, in the Meyerland area. You know HEB has now committed to building a huge grocery store in Meyerland plaza. Which was a really big deal for the neighborhood, because it means people – businesses – it you know because it’s fine to say – you know everyone worries, well if I come back, is there going to be a grocery store…is there going to be…? You know because there was an HEB on Braeswood that now flooded three times, and they closed, which we didn’t blame them. And so everybody was very concerned, well, what does that mean? And so, HEB announced a few months ago, a month or two ago, that they’re building a huge brand new HEB in Meyerland Plaza, which was really good news for everybody, with a huge Kosher section and specializing in Jewish foods and this and that, so it also just reinforced people feeling better about their decisions to stay where they are and um -you know look, Jewish communities kind of move – or all ethnic communities move – you know, historically, you can say a hundred years ago, they – I mean, the Jewish community used to be, right by U of H (University of Houston) that was kind of where everybody was. So it’s not unheard – it’s not unheard of or even unusual for these places to move, but I think it happens organically it’s – I think it’s a different story when like a flood – it’s interesting to see if a flood or something like that would force it to happen. But right now, it seems like people are committed – even probably more so because I feel like there’s somewhat of a resilience like, I’m not going to be forced –
SS: like my roots are here –
NC: are here – Yes. Yes, yes. I’m not giving up on this – you know if it happens organically, I think it’s different, I think people are somewhat stubborn in a good way, like I’m not going to be forced out of my home, yeah or out of my neighborhood. So.
SS: Mhmm. That’s really interesting to hear. And, its – that’s true – you know this shifting, it can happen for all sorts of reasons –
NC: Yeah –
SS: But I find that very, like, encouraging, and strengthening, to hear that kind of sentiment.
NC: Yeah – You know I think you know – my husband and I when we went back and forth on about what we wanted to do, you know like are we being silly, are we this and are we that and it’s like – there is, there is just this different kind of like resilience – you know somebody said – we just need to – actually so many people have said this – we just need to pick up and move to wherever and everybody goes together and – first of all, not that easy and second of all – I think when communities do move, it happens over the course of many years for a lot of different factors versus like this flood – not everybody is just going to pick up and move at one time, it just doesn’t happen that way, and I think people even get more steadfast in saying I’m going to stay and you know, invest in the neighborhood. But I think it’s been a positive um – I think businesses staying put means a big deal to the neighborhood, which, um so there’s a big push for a Trader Joe’s (laughs). Traders Joe’s, I don’t know they – Trader Joe’s, people keep inundating them with Meyerland requests for Traders Joe’s (laughs) um –
SS: The closest one, that’s on Kirby? From here?
NC: Yeah, yeah (laughs) so, but it’s just funny. It’s like the – but I do believe like, yeah for like the Jewish Community Centers and the synagogues, for those to stay it’s one thing, but for kind of non-Jewish businesses – but that assist in the Jewish cultural aspect – staying or moving back in makes a big difference.
SS: Mhmm. Are there other businesses besides HEB that you’ve heard of that are planning to kind of stick their roots?
NC: Well, um you know, there’s a grocery store Belden’s which is just a one shop, like they’re not a chain, its only one, and they very much specialize in kosher foods, and you know it’s a full on grocery store, but that’s their kind of niche. They you know have said they’re staying put. Three Brother’s Bakery, here, which is kosher, and a lot of people – it has now flooded three times, too and they’re still staying put. You know, so I think there is, there’s just like a commitment to the area – there’s a lot of mom and pop kind of businesses now, by choice, or not, whether their forced to stay – I don’t know but, if they’re all staying put so um –
I don’t foresee that – there’s not going to be a commercial shift I guess, where people would follow it.
SS: (Pause) Well, is there anything else you would like to talk about? I think, I got to a lot of my questions, but is there anything you want to share more, about your experiences or…anything similar?
NC: Umm, I’m trying to think is there anything, um I think it – you know, it’s funny looking back on the week – I was talking to someone about the weekend of Harvey – and you know the big notion that you know everybody knew this storm was coming, and then nothing happened on that Saturday – and then everybody thought it kind of – you know it was kind of looking back to how the whole thing happened – and um I think – as surprised or not surprised – I mean it’s like people were prepared for it and then completely surprised by it at the same time. It’s like I think people thought we dodged the bullet and you know it ended up being probably worse than people, you know even imagined. But I think – um no – I think it – if anything like I said to you, I think through the process we’ve just all learned that it just takes – for these communities it just – you hear – it’s changed my perspective on things I see in the news – you know you see Puerto Rico or you see Katrina or you see, even Sandy, or – you know they’re on the news for the few weeks and – or even you know those terrible floods in Wimberley, Texas, and those people wash away- you hear these stories, and they stay in your conscious for a little while, and then they – you move on to the next thing and I think it’s made me realize that, these communities, it changes them forever, and it takes them a long time to really come back from that.
Yeah, so, my son goes to summer camp in Ojai, California, and they had just had their terrible wildfires – and just reading all the things that – you know like it just takes – you know you read about what happened in Sonoma – and you really – it has just changed my perspective on when I hear these stories in the news and really, truly appreciate that even when the cameras are gone, these stories continue for these people for a really long time. And you know, as difficult as the whole things been, we are fortunate that we can, we are fortunate that we can – we have had the ability to move into a house, but for a lot of people, you know they’re still living with relatives, they’re still living in FEMA housing – the amount of people still living in FEMA housing is astounding. You know, and down the street here’s an animal shelter that started for dogs that were just lost during the storm and were never claimed, and you know there have been some real consequences and six months later, they’re still full, you know, where people who couldn’t claim that dogs is where there – you know one of the biggest things for us is that we had a dog and a lot of places wouldn’t take our dog so we – so I think there’s people that are really – you know for us we’ll be fine and it’s a slow process, but I think for other people, it’s really – the impact is far-reaching, and you know sometimes they don’t come back, you know that it really just- they can’t, they can’t rebound from that.
SS: Yeah, it’s interesting you bring that up because that’s something that you know I’ve been thinking about, is what about the trauma, and like the emotional impact of this kind of really big…natural disaster –
NC: Natural disaster, yeah – (said at the same time as narrator)
SS: And do you think that communities have what they need in terms of that, or you know from your own experience with the Jewish community?
NC: I think the Jewish community is really good about offering – you know there is Jewish Family Services, which offers free counseling services and things of that nature, um which I think have been really monumental especially because the Jewish community has been so hard it for the last three years, you know, not just with Harvey, so I think people are really reeling from those multiple floods you know. But it’s interesting, because even when you think – you know we’ve – no pun intended – weathered the storm well, I mean we’re fine – but it’s funny, for about a month after the storm, I always heard it raining at night – and it didn’t hinder my sleep – it didn’t – but clearly people are completely impacted by it and you don’t really realize….um I think – so I think, we’re lucky being in the Jewish community that there are resources that aren’t just city resources or state resources, there’s private resources to help. I think there are probably communities that sadly don’t have that – or you know – definitely people who are suffering who don’t have access to the help, that they probably – that they probably need.
SS: Mhmm. (Pause) Thank you so much –
NC: You’re so welcome –
SS: I really appreciate you –
NC: No problem –
SS: Taking the time to talk to me – and sharing your experiences –
NC: My pleasure –
SS: I know that this can be like a deeply personal thing –
NC: My pleasure –
SS: And I’m grateful that you shared it with me –
NC: Thank you –
SS: Thank you. This concludes our interview.
End of transcript