Moving on: Students find homes after Harvey
Off-campus student housing that was flooded during the storm.
Tram Ngyuen’s off-campus apartment is the third home she has lost to a hurricane.
Almost 12 years to the day of Hurricane Harvey, her family’s New Orleans home flooded in Hurricane Katrina. Then, the temporary home she and her family stayed at with five other families flooded during Hurricane Rita.
“These disasters have made me value a sense of normal,” Nguyen, a McMurtry College junior, said. “I just want to know what tomorrow is going to be like. For a week after Harvey, I didn't know what tomorrow was going to be like.”
Nguyen left her apartment on the first floor of a complex and sheltered on campus during the hurricane. Before leaving, she moved everything she could onto chairs and her bed. The McMurtry magisters drove Nguyen home for the first time since Harvey to an apartment that had flooded above the electrical outlets.
“Last time there was no cleanup,” Nguyen said. “Last time everything was gone and you just let the government come in and clear everything out. This time it was really hard to go back. It was just overwhelming to look at what you had and know this is gone.”
Nguyen is now staying in an empty RA apartment at Martel College with five other girls who have been displaced by Hurricane Harvey.
“These struggles make you stronger,” Nguyen said. “At least now I've weathered enough storms to figure out how to move. I've done so much moving in the last week and a half.”
When her new furniture arrives, Nguyen said she will move to an apartment in the same complex but on a higher floor.
“I kept going back to my apartment complex pushing the management to find me a different place,” Nguyen said. “I was very persistent and very stubborn for days. It's almost a fight to get a new place.”
Nguyen said after so many hurricanes she is praying for a sense of calm.
“I've hit natural disaster jackpots so it's time to hit some good fortune jackpots,” Nguyen said. “And yet after all of this I still love the south. I don't think I'm ever going to be able to leave the south. This is home.”
Sam Robedee’s second floor apartment next to Buffalo Bayou escaped the flooding, but not the mold.
“I'm allergic to mold and I also have asthma,” Robedee, a Wiess College sophomore, said. “The first time I went back it was hard to breathe, but then when I went back to get more stuff, it was a lot worse and I couldn't handle it.”
Robedee moved home for two days and drove to campus from his parents’ house, a drive he said took two hours one way.
“It's set me back quite a bit because I was worried about finding housing — [that’s] six or eight hours taken out of the first few days back that I couldn't use for schoolwork,” Robedee said. “Now I’m still trying to catch up so I can have some normalcy in my academics.”
Robedee is staying in an available single in Duncan College for first semester while he tries to figure out his next home.
“That’s pretty stressful right now because we don't know if they'll let us out of the lease or if we'll have to get lawyers involved and everything,” Robedee said. “That's just another time commitment outside of schoolwork.”
Zach Abercrumbia was all the way in Australia with the rest of Rice’s football team when the Hurricane Harvey hit Houston.
“It was was a shock because when we left, I don't even think we knew a tropical storm was coming,” Abercrumbia said. “A day or two into the trip we hear about this tropical storm that's picking up power, and then I kept hearing stories.”
His home, a one story house near Buffalo Bayou where he lived with three other teammates, along with all four of their cars, flooded with three feet of water.
“Being so far and not having control can make you feel helpless,” Abercrumbia said.
With Houston’s airports shut down, the football team flew to Fort Worth, Texas and practiced at Texas Christian University's facilities. When the team finally returned to Houston on Friday, Sept. 1, the first place they went was to Abercrumbia’s home.
“I think we've really grown closer this tragedy as a team and really been helping each other out from just a ride to just someone you can talk to about your problems,” Abercrumbia said.
Abercrumbia lost almost everything in his house but his clothes and shoes. On Monday, he moved to a new apartment with a former teammate. He is sleeping on an air mattress and hitching rides to and from campus. He arrives around 7 a.m. for his early morning workout and classes and stays until 8 p.m. for football practice.
“My outlook has just been it's not going to magically get done so if I don't do it it's not going to get done,” Abercrumbia said. “Of course I'd rather be able to just focus on school and football like it's a normal semester but it's not a normal semester so I'm going to just keep on handling business."
Abercrumbia said he is focusing on football and his schoolwork, not all that he has lost.
“One thing our coach preached to us this week before the game [was to] count your blessings,” Abercrumbia said. “Just count your blessings.”
More from The Rice Thresher
“The broader university has a strategic plan — the V2C2 — and then each of the different schools are tasked with coming up with their own strategic plan,” Karlgaard said. “So I think there is a question about, ‘Should the general student body be involved in each of those strategic plans? If you are an English major, should you have input in the engineering strategic plan? If you are a non student-athlete, should you have input into the athletics strategic plan?’“
Class of 2019 graduates came to Saturday morning’s commencement with their caps, gowns, stoles and umbrellas. Despite forecasted downpours and the proposed alternative venue of Tudor Fieldhouse, both Friday and Saturday ceremonies were held outside. Like their matriculation ceremony four years ago, the graduates saw rain fall as they were granted their degrees.
“I truly believe we find our unique purpose in that space, because no one can be copied to the T,” Uzodike said. “We have a lot to bring to the table and I just want to remind people that no matter what space they find themselves in, they should never abandon the traits, gifts or skills that make them unique.”