The Great Galveston Hurricanes of 1900 and 2005

As Hurricane Rita bears down on the Texas coast, especially Galveston, I am reminded that 105 years ago Galveston was destroyed by a hurricane, which killed more than 6000 people and is considered the deadliest disaster in US history. Galveston–at the time the greatest city on the Texas coast–never fully recovered. Houston became the great city of that part of Texas.

I remember from my childhood hearing stories from my maternal grandmother, who was three years old when the hurricane struck, but whose father was a civil engineer for the railroad and was sent to help rebuild Galveston after the hurricane. He took his family with him, and my Grandma spent her childhood in a city being rebuilt.

Oddly enough (isn’t it strange what one remembers as from childhood) I remember her telling me how she was forbidden from buying tamales and other food from the Mexican food stands that lined the streets of Galveston because the food was unsafe (or at least perceived to be unsafe by my Midwestern forbears). This prohibition became a kind of mental block for me–that Mexican food was somehow “unclean” or dangerous–and it wasn’t until I was in my early adulthood that I acquired a taste for it.

My grandmother died in 1968 when I was still in high school. There are so many stories that in retrospect I wish that I could hear more. What stories will the children of New Orleans, Biloxi, Galveston and Houston have to say about the Summer and Fall of 2005?

There is a compelling book about the great Galveston hurricane of 1900 by Erik Larson, called Isaac’s Storm. I recommend it.

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