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Loss of Place

A case submitted by

Sofia Packer

I am a current MA student at Teachers College, but I grew up in a suburb north of Houston. Both natural disasters and more gradual aspects of climate change have had visible effects on the community where I grew up.  

There is a park near my parents' house that I used to play in all the time. It has play structures for children, covered picnic tables, and a large field where recreational sports teams sometimes play. I distinctly remember summer days in my childhood where I would walk over to this park, one of the only places close enough to walk in my town, and spend hours on the play structures.  

I have stayed with my parents over some recent summers, and one of the biggest things I have noticed is how quiet the park is. Southeast Texas has been getting hotter and hotter every summer, to the point where it is now generally unsafe to be outside for too long in the middle of the day. While the park is still crowded for the few hours after sunrise and before sunset, this center of outdoor play for children and exercise opportunities for adults is virtually inaccessible for a large portion of the day. From my own observations, the community just seems less lively during a time of year that used to be defined by the sounds of children playing outside.  

The second part of my story is about natural disasters. Hurricanes have been a part of my life for more than 20 years. I had classmates who moved into our area after fleeing Hurricane Katrina, and I remember missing multiple weeks of school when Hurricane Ike hit because some streets were so thoroughly flooded that kids couldn't get to school. That was the first time I really understood that hurricanes and flooding weren't just a fun time to camp in my living room with flashlights and our cats. Our whole family went to volunteer at the local food bank, donating and sorting food so that less fortunate families would have one less thing to worry about in the aftermath of the storm. 

It wasn't until I was in high school that I saw what these storms did firsthand. We had three major floods during my high school years, first in 2015, then again in 2016, and finally the destruction of Hurricane Harvey in 2017. We took food and water directly to some of the people directly affected after these floods. It was truly shocking to see homes that had been partially washed away, and others with piles of ruined possessions that the residents couldn't afford to replace.  

It was often the poorest people in our community who were hit the hardest. They were the ones renting homes on the floodplains, and many had little or no insurance to help them recover after the disasters. I remember one neighborhood that was hit three years in a row, and some of those families felt that they would never be able to recover. Some hadn't even been able to repair the damage from the previous flood before the next one struck. The despair on many of their faces is something I will never forget.  

So many spaces have been destroyed or rendered unusable since my childhood. From public spaces, to homes, so much has been lost by increasingly violent and destructive storms, as well as a hostile environment that only seems to be getting worse.


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