It’s Wednesday, August 30, and it’s a beautiful day in Houston. The sun is shining, the air relatively crisp and cool. I want to enjoy this strange development, but I just can’t. Not when the death toll from Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath continues to grow. Not when countless Houstonians have lost their homes, with many still trapped and awaiting rescue. Not when we all remain terrified of what horrors those overflowing dams, and that chemical plant, will continue to unleash. And not when—if I’m honest—I’m pretty hungover. I know I’m not the only Houstonian who’s done a little self-medicating to mitigate the stress.
The Houstonia staffers have no idea what day it is, at this point. The team is down by two, Ginny Ellsworth and Stephanie Rice, both of whom have flooded homes. The rest of us have been spared serious physical damage, although we cannot say the same of our friends and family. As I keep saying: Don’t feel guilty, just feel grateful. It’s been my mantra for days now.
I close my eyes, and I can see the radar of the storm moving across my eyelids, like it’s imprinted there. Harvey remains nearby, raining hell on East Texas. But it’s a beautiful day in Houston, and able Houstonians have all—to a one, it seems—emerged, bleary-eyed and desperate to help those in need.
Our staff is in the throes of organizing its own relief effort, Houstonia Helps, spearheaded by our indefatigable marketing and events manager Laura Tracy, with the goal of getting the right supplies to the right people at the right time. Already, people have started dropping items off at our office, inside a house on Heights Boulevard. There’s a weird energy here, with everybody exhausted and energized, horrified and hopeful, all at the same time.
I type this letter to our readers completely in awe of Houstonia’s editorial staff. As Harvey descended, they switched to covering it full-time. Their stories have broken my heart, made me think, terrified me, given me hope, made me cry, inspired me, and finally, made me laugh hysterically, like a madwoman.
At the center of it all has been our incredible managing editor Katharine Shilcutt, who’s been living this thing 24/7, writing amazing stories and running our social media accounts and finding time to volunteer, even as her grandmother broke her hip and had heart trouble following surgery, her parents had to flee their home, and she lost her wallet, something she’s apparently shrugged off entirely, as the storm has made clear the things that matter, and the things that don’t.
Before we knew anything about a bastard named Harvey, we put together a great October cover story about the 67 Best Date Nights in town, something that’s frankly not at the top of the list for anybody right now; we’ll run it later. Instead, we’ve stopped the presses, and the team has fanned out across Houston to do what they do best: tell the story of our city and its amazing populace, of acts of heroism large and small, in this magazine that we love and that you are now holding in your hands.
It’s a beautiful day in Houston, and I can’t enjoy it. But I’ll never forget it.