In the movie “The World According to Garp” Robin Williams, as T.S. Garp, says after he watches a plane crash into the house they are thinking of buying says “We’ll take the house. Honey, the chances of another plane hitting this house are astronomical. It’s been pre-disastered. We’re going to be safe here.” For my home town of Texas City, Texas, in the local vernacular, that dog won’t hunt.
If you do a google search on 1. The biggest industrial disaster in North America and 2. The biggest natural disaster in North America you come up with:
- The Texas City Disaster. On April 16, 1947 a fertilizer ship blew up in the harbor. The blast was one of the biggest non nuclear blasts of all time and ignited the nearby chemical refineries. The initial blast and subsequent fires killed 581 people and injured near 5,000 others. There are some excellent sources for info on this, but like everything else, wiki is a good place to start: The Texas City Disaster
- The 1900 Galveston Hurricane. This is before they named storms and way before modern forecasting. It was another Cat 4, winds up to 145 mph hitting Galveston head on with no warning and no storm protection, The exact number of people killed is unknown, estimates vary from 6,000 to 12,000. Texas City didn’t really even exist yet, but since Galveston is like 10 miles away by water from TC and in the same county, I’m counting it! Again, a fascinating read if you do some research: 1900 Galveston Hurricane
Since then, the list is way too long. The BP Explosion in 2005 killing 15. BP Explosion. A hot water tank collapsed at the Monsanto refinery in 1977 killing 3, including a close friend of the family. Hurricane Carla, which before Irma was the biggest storm ever to hit North America hit just down the road in Port O’Connor and hurricane force winds were felt in Texas City. Our house sustained some flood damage. I don’t really remember it, as I was 1 year old! Around 150 deaths overall from Hurricane Carla
Since then, we’ve had Ike and now Harvey. I’m probably missing some, but you get the point.
Why should you care? Well, there is very little chance that at some point today you haven’t touched something that had it’s origins in my hometown. Texas City was formed when some guys were out duck hunting and realized they could build a deep water channel from Galveston. Deep water=big ships. They did, and started building chemical refineries. A LOT of chemical refineries. I’m pretty sure TC has the biggest concentration of refineries in the U.S., and therefore in North America. We make every plastic you’ve ever heard of. Anti-freeze. Gasoline. If it uses oil as it’s feedstock, it is refined somewhere in Texas City.
Holy crap, you think. Glad those refineries aren’t in my hometown. And you are right, you should be glad they aren’t. They are however in mine. Every time someone talks about building a refinery, or a pipeline and everyone shouts “NOT HERE!” and lists all the reasons (legitimate ones) why not, folks from my hometown understand, but can start to feel a bit resentful. It’s not in our backyards, it IS our backyards. As bad as you hate to admit it, like Col. Jessup in a Few Good Men, “you need us on that wall.” Someone has to make the stuff you use every day, and those someones are the folks living in my hometown. The resentment goes away pretty quickly, and the folks down there get to work making the stuff that runs the modern world. You may not like it, but if you are being honest, you need it. The plastic in the keyboard I’m typing on and that smart phone you are holding. The anti-freeze (you need that shit in Canada dontcha) in your car. The plastic in your fly line, and reel, and rod comes from smack dab in the middle of disaster alley.
This is a partial view of the refineries. There are literally miles of them.
Why don’t they leave? Well, honestly, a lot of them do. I did. But I understand why many stay. The jobs are good (if you take out that whole danger thing). The seafood! The BBQ! The people are as good as you will find anywhere. On a fishing note, there is very little in life better than standing waist deep in the surf on Galveston Island at daybreak watching the sunrise, looking at the thunderstorms in the distance and catching big trout.
People everywhere are resilient, I’ve seen that first hand when the floods hit Calgary. Most folks take a minute to reflect, sigh, hitch up their pants, and get to work. People from Texas City have resilience bred into their bones. They skip that reflect and sigh part and just get after it. My wife says a couple of things about that: 1. “If you are ever in a disaster, you want to be in Texas. You don’t have to worry about the help coming.” 2. “If you want something done, get a Texas woman to do it. They’d run the world if they wanted to.” I would say my hometown is the epicenter of that attitude. We should be, we’ve had a lot of practice. And on a personal note, the women helping with our non profit site are some of the most bad ass women you will meet anywhere. Not sure where they get the energy, they just go. Not taking away anything from us guys, but we know how to stay the heck out of the way!
So now the pitch. When Harvey started, I contacted a small group of friends started a Facebook group to help victims of Harvey. It quickly mushroomed to around 1700 members, and we have since formed a non profit organization called TCHS Alumni Foundation, which will quickly be renamed The Texas City High School Phoenix Foundation. The name is appropriate because like the Phoenix, we rise. We can do it by ourselves, but we could dearly use some help. The folks in Texas City won’t ask. I will.
If you have ever read this blog before and I have made you chuckle a bit, or maybe even laugh out loud at my absurdity, I’m asking you to consider donating to our site. If not for me, then in recognition of what the people of my hometown do for you. For the most part, you can keep your backyard mostly clean by offloading your mess to theirs (and I recognize what Alberta does to keep the world going as well). Any little bit helps, and I truly mean that. I promise that the funds you donate will all go to people who need it. You may think “but I don’t know those people” and you’d be right. I may not know them personally either. But when do you donate to a cause and know who is getting the money? When this is over, I will be able to show you exactly where the money went. And our expense ratio will be effectively 0, so 100% of what you donate (after the cc company takes their cut) will go directly to victims. We have everything from single mothers to folks with disabilities who will need financial assistance. Please help us provide it. Here is the link, and thank you all very much for the time!
And we don’t mean this to be a one time relief fund. Our desire is to keep this going long after the clean up from Harvey is over because if there is one thing we know, deep in our bones, the next disaster is coming. We hope it is years down the road, but it is coming.
So that’s my pitch. I promise to get back to fun and frivolity soon enough. I’ve got a few stories in the bank.