user_mobilelogo

Jan Pattillo didn’t really intend to spend most of her Labor Day weekend snaking her way to Rockport pulling a gooseneck trailer.

IRONIC - A sign remains on a wall amid hurricane-wrecked homes in Shelly Rogers' neighborhood, so Rogers and Jan Patillo decided to relax for a moment and take a selfie.

And former Hamiltonian Shelly Rogers didn’t intend to lose everything to Hurricane Harvey, and the coast of Texas didn’t intend to be destroyed by high winds and floodwaters.

In Texas, neighbors help neighbors, even if they live 300 miles apart.

Shelly’s sister, Micca, knew Jan knew rodeo people with trailers and big trucks, so she stopped in Jordan’s Friday morning in a panic to see if Jan knew anyone who could help her get to Shelly and retrieve her belongings from her destroyed condominium.

The roof caved in on Shelly, in more ways than one.

Literally, the roof of her condo fell into her bedroom, and the ceiling of the second floor caved into the first. Shelly also discovered that her “comprehensive” insurance did not cover wind damage, and after four days at her brand-new teaching assignment, her school was destroyed by the hurricane and closed indefinitely, leaving Shelly without a job.

For most people, strike three means you’re out, but for Shelly and her sister, and most of the people affected by the storm, strike three means find a way to fix it.

After hearing Micca’s plea Friday, Jan got on the phone trying to find someone who could help her, but most of her friends are ropers, and ironically, were heading to Hamilton’s Circle T for the World Series Roping over the holiday weekend.

By the time Jan left work at 8:40 p.m., she was still without answers.

“I messaged everyone I know, but everyone was already busy,” she said.

By then Micca had found a 6x10 trailer in Hico and was going to pull it herself with her stepfather’s old truck.

“That trailer is the size of one section of our gooseneck out there,” David Pattillo told his wife when she got home. “Why don’t you just take the big truck and go?”

“Yeah right,” was Jan’s reply. She knew she couldn’t find a pharmacist to work on such short notice.

HELPERS - Above, Garrett, left, and Bryan Lightfoot, right, with their A&M friends and Jan Patillo help load the trailer in Rockport. Below, Kain Kunkel, Ian Nath, Caleb and Robert French and many others helped unload in Hamilton.

But she called her relief pharmacist anyway, and sure enough, he drove up from Fredericksburg to cover Saturday.

By 11 p.m., she was filling gas cans with diesel for the truck and gas for the equipment because of the uncertain supply in south Texas, and by 8 a.m., she and Micca were heading south.

“When we got there, it was like a tornado had hit,” Jan said. “There was lots of water, and the wind had blown roofs off buildings, tile and slate roofs, they were very heavy.

“There was a trailer wrapped around a telephone pole and some trailers upside down. Metal buildings were caved in. Barns, homes and trees were torn up. The telephone poles that were still standing were all leaning the same direction.

“And everything was totally silent.”

The pair made their way through narrowed streets, working around trees and telephone poles still in the roadway.

“You could tell it was a very upscale neighborhood,” Jan said, “but the windows were all blown out and there were trees everywhere. I thought they were mesquite trees, but they were oak trees that had been skinned. They had no bark.

“People were just quietly working, clearing the brush from their yards.

“In Shelly’s condo, the bedroom upstairs had insulation and wood all over the floor and bed and her clothes. It was like it blew insulation all over the room.”

Shelly had boarded her windows before evacuating, but her neighbors’ windows were all blown out.

“There was glass everywhere, and the balcony was not there; it was all gone.

“There was a big tree laying on the roof, but it was gone by the time we got there.”

Micca and Jan pulled in and went straight to work, along with Shelly’s sons Garrett and Bryan Lightfoot, and a team of A&M buddies who were armed with generators, shovels and chainsaws.

“And the mosquitoes!” Jan said. “They were everywhere, and as big as your thumbnail. The pool was stagnant water, and if you went by it, you got covered in them.”

By 6 p.m. they were loaded up – the gooseneck was full – and headed north, and Jan said the mosquitoes and bugs sounded like heavy rain hitting their windshield. By the time they got home, they couldn’t see the license plate on the front of the truck; it was completely covered in bugs.

The pair arrived back in Hamilton about 4 a.m., and Saturday afternoon, Hamilton High School football players and other volunteers arrived to unload Shelly’s things into her mom’s barn.

But even after resting from her journey, Jan’s thoughts are with the people of Rockport and the work that needs to be done.

“Now they have to clear the roads, the limbs and debris, and we saw a mosquito wagon in Taft spraying, but David says they will need an airplane,” she said.

“West Nile and Zika, all that disease can set in, not to mention the mold.”

The task is daunting and overwhelming, but the people just keep working, helping, slowly and silently making progress.

“I’m completely humbled by the caring people that came to help me,” Shelly said Tuesday from her sister’s house in Temple. “We got all my stuff out, but already there is black mold growing on the ceiling because of the moisture and humidity. The insulation is soaked and growing mold.

“The electricity is supposed to be on Friday by 10 p.m. The people who already have electricity only use it from 8 to 5.

“There are electric companies here from Michigan, Illinois, Tennessee… every state you can imagine. It is heartwarming to see that much love, care and concern.

“There is no water, and they are not sure when it will be on because of damage to pipes in the area.

“The roofer has no idea, and insurance and FEMA have no time estimates. Some say six months, some say a year.

“But it was amazing to see people driving through with extra-large cups of hot spaghetti with utensils and chips and water for whoever is working.

“The acts of kindness, you can’t imagine how many people are down here giving of themselves.

“Garrett and Bryan and their friends left here and went to help Lynn (Pearce) at the Emergency Operations Center in Aransas Pass and to help first responders with their houses.

“It’s devastating, and you can see it on TV,” Shelly said, “but until you see it, you can’t understand devastation.”

The Aransas Pass school district told those who evacuated to enroll their children in school wherever they were displaced.

“I wonder how many will be able to return?” said Shelly, who teaches third grade math and science.

“In all the devastation, it is so heartwarming to see the love of people joining together serving food, water, ice, clothes.

“I wish the world would be like that all the time and that it would not take devastation to make us come together in love.”

Shelly moved to Rockport over the summer to start her new job. She was excited to be so close to her beloved beach, to spend her evenings with her toes in the sand.

Most of the beaches are closed now, but she did manage to traipse down to one spot that was clear and just sit.

“I got my toes in the sand, listened to the water, and it calmed my soul,” she said. “I thank God for my blessings, and I’m overwhelmed and humbled by the kindness shown for me.”

Get In Touch

The Hamilton Herald-News
P.O. Box 833
Hamilton, TX 76531

 
 (254) 386-3145
 (254) 386-3001