Amanda Hart

Photography by Amanda Hart

Kaitlyn Kerr

The TV is flickering as I switch from channel to channel, searching for anything other than the incoming hurricane report. It is late, but I cannot sleep knowing there is a mandatory evacuation tomorrow morning.

My livelihood is in this studio apartment. I know I cannot stay here but the memories are keeping me back locked in shackles. Moving to Houston, was my first big step after high school. I built myself from the ground up, after my parents kicked me out after high school.

Knowing that this storm comes in two days and that my whole apartment will most likely be nothing but concrete and wood, I am so anxious.

When it is finally morning, and I am packing up the boxes and saying goodbye to the house. I hear a loud knocking at the door, more like a pounding.
I yell out, “Who is it?”

A familiar male voice replies back, “Your landlord, Bob! Time to go!”

Slowly, I get up and sigh, thankful for the memories I’ve made. From the parties to the heartbreaks, with every step I take it echoes through the halls.

When I open the door, Bob puts his hand on my shoulder and asks me, “Are you ready?”

“Ready than I’ll ever be,” I reply.

We leave my apartment and I say my final farewell before the door slams close. He helps me put my boxes in his truck and takes me to The Hilton Americas in the middle of the city. The hotel lobby is full of children screaming, and adults arguing. The crowd of adults and kids move the chairs and desks to allow more space for their complaining. I am so thankful that I booked this room a week ago. I glide past all of them to get my cart, key and my room number.

“Room 623…here’s your key ma’am,” Said the busy hotel representative said with a frazzled and rushed attitude.
Bob and I travel up to my room. When we reach, I exhale and hugging Bob as we both pray for safety. He leaves, and I slowly push in my room key card to open the door. The rush of fresh linen fills my nostrils when I walk in. I throw my things down and hop on the bed. The bed was so soft that it nearly suffocates me. I tell myself to unpack my things before I get too lazy to do it. So, I roll off the bed like a log and I begin.

RING…RING…RING… I fell asleep while unpacking and my phone is on the other side of the room. Raising myself off the hardwood floor, I go into downward dog, then into child’s pose. I reach to the phone seconds before the person hangs up. I pick up and it’s my best friend from back home, Diamond.
“Hey! How are you? I heard about the storm?” She says.

“Yeah, I’m okay. The storm is coming tomorrow. I am at a hotel right now,” I softly said back.
“That’s good! Do you think your apartment will stay?” Diamond asked sounding anxious of what might happen.

My voice starts to crack, “No. It is a Category 4 Hurricane! Harvey’s blowing 131-155 miles per hour and has a storm surge of 13-18 feet. My apartment will NOT hold up to the strong winds.”

There was then a dial tone. Strange, did she just hang up on me? I called her back ready to lash out on her leaving me hanging. It goes straight to voicemail. I hang up frustrated and climb back into my bed, there is then a beeping sound coming from the telephone in my room. I slither my hand over on the side table and grab the phone. There is a long tone then an automated voice began to speak.

“The National Weather Service is issuing an extreme wind and rain warning to your city, Houst-”
The electricity went out. What the hell? I push in keys of the phone, but there is no sound. Putting the handset back, I change new clothes to see what is going on outside. Walking to the elevator, I can see a line starting to form. I, knowing that elevators do not work when the electricity is out, turn and go towards the stairs. In the stairwell, I see a girl walking slowly with her bob up in a mini bun, going down the stairs.

“Hey! Do you know what is going on?” I said with a friendly grin on my face.
She stopped sternly. “No.” Then continued to walk. I follow behind her trying to make some small talk.
“What’s your name?” I said, now trudging next to her.
She stopped again and turned and looked at me. “Rita”
“My name is Kaitlyn. I just checked in yesterday.”
“Me too,” She replied.

We both hopped down the stairs until we reached the first floor. Once again, I am met with men in robes and women looking undone. There are children pulling on their parents wondering what is wrong. Rita and I both look at each other trying to distinguish the wet, mind-blowing smell that you can almost taste. We push through the crowd hoping that there is a message somewhere telling us if we can still refuge here. The manager is trying to rationalize with the residents, but nothing is getting through to them. Suddenly, Rita lets out a horrific shout.

“Everyone shut up! Do you guys want to find a way to be safe from the storm or not?”
Everyone is quiet, except for surprised murmurs. I pass through to the front desk and ask the manager,
“Do you guys have a backup generator or something?”
He answered back with stress in his voice, “That was the backup generator…”
The roar of the residents began to pick up again and I sighed with frustration. Stress is coming through me, Rita notices it and tells me,
“Go outside, you need a break.”

When I finally get outside, a big whoosh of air hits me in my face. It looks as if the chaos and the roars in the lobby muted out the catastrophic activity outside. Turning back to get back inside bucketfuls of rain begin to hit me, I begin to pull on the door, but it is locked. BAM. BAM. BAM, the window echoes as I bang for someone, anybody to open that door.

A giant current of water comes over me, sweeping me off my feet. Trying to keep my head above the water I scream for help as I soar down Lamar St. Swimming is now my only option to survive, the freestyle stroke is the only style I can remember from my high school swim class. Finally, I see a car still able to stay on the ground, reaching out for it.

I get ahold of the passenger side mirrors and use it to get on the car roof and out of the water. It looks like the Mississippi is flowing through the city, I have no idea how I will survive this mess. Waiting for sirens, boats, helicopters…anything. My eyes start to grow tired and weary, the last thing I see is the shining lights of the Toyota Center.