By Rachael Hopson
The words house and home are usually synonymous, but to the residents of Memorial Hills, the word “home” has taken on a com
pletely new meaning. This neighborhood on the northeast side of Houston stood together through the excessive flooding of Hurricane Harvey and after.
People came from near and far to help the area with rescue efforts.
Anne Mentlewski, a homeowner of 28 years in the neighborhood, was particularly worried about her neighbors in the hours prior to the flooding. She lives across the street from several elderly couples who she loves dearly.
“I don’t see them every day, but I always know what’s going on in their lives.” As she watched the news and heard the forecast of water levels at eight feet above record, she couldn’t believe it, especially after they had survived hurricanes Alicia and Ike with no water damage.
Throughout the weekend of Aug. 26, she continued to watch the drainage ditch in the center of the neighborhood. She always checked on it when flooding was a possibility, and knew that even if it filled, they should still be fine. It wasn’t until Sunday evening that she started to realize evacuation may be necessary. As the water continued to rise into her street, she decided she was going to leave, but first wanted to check on her neighbors and hopefully convince them to do the same. While some had already had their families pick them up, others decided that they would stay through the storm.
Before Mentlewski left, she asked her brother-in-law to check up on them and rescue them if necessary. After Mentlewski safely got to her son’s house, rain continued to pour, and overnight, the water got high enough to reach the houses on her street.
It was only after several feet of water got in their houses that two of the elderly couples decided they needed help evacuating. Since no vehicles could get through, Charlie Mentlewski found an inner tube and, one by one, rescued five people from their flooded houses over the next three hours.
After everyone was safely out of the area, they had to wait to be able to re-enter the neighborhood and assess damage. It wasn’t until Wednesday that they were able to see their houses.
“The worry wasn’t about the physical aspect of the damage, but about my neighbors and what they would have to deal with,” Mentlewski said as she spoke about seeing her street for the first time after the flood. While the devastation was incredible, the amount of love and support from everyone’s friends and families was even more so.
In the following days, most houses on the street had a couple of people helping with the cleanup. Mentlewski and her neighbors, the Graham’s, had about 10 people each day to help out. Yes, their losses were great, but they were losses of house and of things, not of their sense of home. For the people of Memorial Hills, home has completely changed.
While many are now without a house, the sense of home among their friends and family, and the Houston areas itself, have become so much greater. The rebuilding process will be long, but they’ve got a great neighborhood family to get them through.