By Steffany Duke
Gulf Coast Center Texas P.R.I.D.E. Crisis Counseling Program (CCP) team leader, Cathy Brown helps many Hurricane Ike survivors everyday, but what many do not know is that she is a survivor herself.
The Saturday after the storm blew through, Brown walked over rooftops to get to her home in San Leon. When she made it past the rubble of her neighbors’ homes, she was shocked to see most of hers still standing.
“The entire bottom floor was gone, but the top was still there,” Brown said. “I couldn’t believe that every other house was gone, but ours.”
Brown’s home was rebuilt in 1962 after Hurricane Carla hit in 1961. The home’s structure consists of plywood walls, instead of sheet rock. Brown says that fact alone could have been the reason her home did not suffer more damage.
Although, Brown’s home wasn’t destroyed, she and her family still face many of the struggles other survivors face.
“The house needs thousands of dollars in repairs and the insurance companies have not moved quickly to help,” Brown said. “Most of our belongings were ruined from the rain, and sometimes it’s hard to go on.”
For many weeks, Brown could not go back to her home. She was so overwhelmed and traumatized by the reality of what happened, and she couldn’t face it. Instead, Brown focused on making a smooth transition for her kids, and getting involved with the Crisis Counseling Program.
“I couldn’t worry about the house,” Brown said. “I had to make a new nest for my kids and get them back into a normal routine.”
Brown signed her husband, and their two teenage children up for the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP), got her kids back to school, and then she went back to work.
“It’s always easier to focus on other people’s problems than your own,” Ramon Benton, co-team leader for Gulf Coast Center Texas P.R.I.D.E. CCP, said. “That’s what Cathy and I both did; you just have to make the situation your new normal and deal with it.”
Through art therapy and support from family and friends, Brown said she was finally able to start the rebuilding process of her home and her life.
“Community support is something the crisis counseling program preaches to all of our hurricane survivors,” Brown said. “It truly does help.”
The Brown family has also embraced art as a way to cope with all of the feelings associated with a traumatic event.
“You enjoy it because you’re concentrating on something pleasant,” Brown said. “It’s almost like meditation; you’re right in the moment and you don’t think about whatever else is on your mind.”
Brown’s daughter, Anda, has won $3,000 and two third place awards for her hurricane sculpture entitled “Adolere, Orare, Adorare”, which mean worship in Latin. The piece is an expression of faith, and reaching wholeness through God.
Brown and her CCP staff have also used art to cope. Most of the staff are also survivors, and they’ve made a mosaic to symbolize the broken pieces of their lives coming together to make something new and whole. (see Picking up the Pieces).
Brown’s home is on its way to becoming new and whole as well. During spring break, volunteers from a church in Indiana came to help her rebuild.
The crew helped Brown’s family put up the interior walls of their bottom level. They have received their flood insurance money to complete the rest of the work, and the Browns hope to move back this summer.
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