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Growing Up With Hurricanes

A case submitted by

Irene Fueyo-Gomez

When I was a junior in high school, Hurricane Harvey destroyed the school I had attended ever since I was 5 years old.  Growing up in Houston, hurricanes were events that I was always familiar with. It rains incredibly often, to the point where now, living in New York, I find myself missing the sounds of rainstorms. Because these events were common enough, I did not grow up truly fearing them.  

When Hurricane Ike hit us, I was 7 years old. To be fully honest, my memories of this hurricane bring with them a sense of nostalgia. There was something very exciting about camping out in our living room, on mattresses my parents had moved to behind the couch to protect us from the glass of the windows, were they to break, while we all sat without speaking and listened to the news on the radio. The sound of an intense storm looming just outside our house. Perhaps at the time, I was too small to know how dangerous this could be for us; all I felt was that it was an adventure we were undertaking as a family. Following the hurricane, there were some days that we did not have electricity. During these days, I remember playing outside with my brothers and our neighbor. I remember keeping our windows open because we had no AC and it was early September in Texas. I remember playing board games at night at our candlelit table. The fact that these are pleasant memories is not only related to my naivety, but also to the fact that I was very lucky—my house did not flood, my parents could miss work without immediate negative consequences, and I lived in a safe home that my parents had made sure to fill with food and water beforehand.  

At my school, whenever it rained heavily, we would often wish for “rain days.” Kids up North want snow days, we wanted rain days. Even in the days before Harvey, I remember that in my group chats with my friends, we were hoping that the rain would be just bad enough that we could miss school. Our wishes were answered—not only did we miss school—but our entire school had to be relocated to another building across town. My experience of Harvey, unlike that of Ike, included the feeling of fear. I remember worrying about whether our house would flood. I remember walking outside to our still-flooded street the next day. I remember seeing pictures of people on kayaks attempting to save each other’s lives. I remember that one street over from me, every house had flooded. I remember hearing from my classmates that they had to swim out of their houses. I remember helping a young couple who had just bought their first home clean it out now that it had fully flooded. I remember seeing my school destroyed, signing buildings with my friends in the hallways we had grown up with before they would be demolished.  

Relocating to a new school, I recall a distinct feeling of things not feeling completely real. School did not seem to matter as much. My expectations of what could happen to me or the people I knew had permanently shifted.  

Many people who have survived these kinds of climate events do not believe in climate change. When something is your reality, you do not always know that something is wrong. This is just how things are. Like a frog boiling to death in a pot that is slowly getting warmer, we become habituated to each small change until the larger ones don’t feel that unusual.


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