Monday, February 15th, had been a long day of playing in the unusual Texas snow. We were exhausted and planning how to brace ourselves for the subzero temperatures forecasted for the overnight hours. I had just poured myself a hot cup of chamomile tea to warm myself up before going to bed when I heard my phone buzz.
The first word – HELP!!!!!
My friend Julia had sent a group text begging for all hands on deck to save her belongings from the water gushing in from the ceiling. The fire line leading to the apartment above Julia had burst, sending a torrential downpour into a single woman’s home, destroying everything including Julia’s apartment below. The sound of the water roaring and the fire alarm ringing sent everyone’s nerves straight into fight or flight mode. Little did everyone know, this was the first pipe of many that would flood the complex that night and into the next day.
Everyone sloshed through inches of water racing to yank everything to higher ground, and finally by 1:00 AM after the fire fighters left, Julia and her husband, cold, soaked, and weary, joined their kids at a friend’s apartment for the night.
RELATED READING :: Snow Angels – Austin Residents Helping One Another During Winter Storm
Once morning came, the familiar sound of the fire alarm echoed in the air again and again sending everyone right back into panic mode. The only information we knew was that the control valve in the fire closet stopped the flooding, but we didn’t know WHO would end up with water in their apartment.
So everyone prepared for the worst.
We had no place to go, anyway. With the complex nestled in the hillside of the Hill Country, the only way out is up a very large hill covered in ice. We had no choice but to hunker down and play defense for our homes.
This was the turning point – the shift.
This uneasy, dire situation forced us to undo everything that 2020 created – separation.
With management on radio silent, tenants had to come together to get through this disaster which had only just begun.
People had to come out of their homes to connect with strangers and problem solve together.
- Neighbors met for the first time.
- We started checking on each other, making sure everyone had food and drinking water.
- We offered a dry place to stay for those who had water damage.
- We cooked meals for each other.
- People with all wheel drive made grocery runs for others when it was safe.
- We cared for one another. Strangers helping strangers. Friends supporting friends.
The disaster and snow closed the six feet gap here in Texas. What mattered more was humanity. I’ve said it before – connection is the being part of a human being. For those of us who got to connect under these extreme conditions would agree that we felt more human than we have in a really long time.
Whether on the giving or receiving end, SNOVID gifted us UNITY and CONNECTION. This is something that would have taken a long time to tap into, but like any traumatic experience, big change was expedited. In these cases, life is simplified down to what actually matters, and people become very clear about this when under pressure. For instance, when your home is 20 degrees and an acquaintance offers you a warm place, the six feet rule doesn’t matter anymore.
Life matters. People matter. You matter.
A week prior to this whole storm, another stranded neighbor within the complex started a Facebook group called 12:31 [Lakeway, Bee Cave, & Surrounding] to simply provide a platform for neighbors to be good neighbors citywide. The timing could not have been more perfect. During SNOVID, the group exploded. People showed up and took action to be a good neighbor all over Austin, Texas.
- Rides were found for stranded drivers, for nurses and physicians who relieved tired shifts at the hospitals, & for people needing rescue from freezing and flooded homes.
- Supplies were found, picked up and delivered for people in need. Things like heaters, firewood, baby supplies, drinking water, hot meals, and more.
- Local restaurants were able to get staff to work solely to make hot meals for people in need.
- Salons offered free hair washing.
- Gyms offered free showers.
- Strangers opened their homes for each other.
This group brought strangers together and Austin is better for it. Honestly, we were all comforted by it. Knowing that we had a place to reach out to for help, gave many of us the hope that everything will be ok. There is nothing more comforting than knowing you have a safe place to lean should you grow weary. Help was within arms reach and no longer six feet away.
That week humanity returned in the most beautiful way to Texas – something we have all craved after a year like 2020. Social distancing and a life separated from our neighbors came to a screeching halt. That week we united, connected, and showed up for each other. For this, we are all deeply changed…