Service Center Opens

Flood victims wait in line outside of a service center at the Mall of the Mainland in Texas City on Wednesday.

STUART VILLANUEVA/The Daily News

It may have seemed like a small thing at first glance, a gesture even, that organizations running a disaster recovery center in Texas City decided to stay open a little later into the evening to accommodate Dickinson residents, especially those such as teachers who are back at work but still are needing assistance.

Even some of the organizers said part of the point was simply to remind those residents that they hadn’t been forgotten in the weeks that have passed since the storm.

In retrospect, however, it’s clear the event was very important for several reasons. Even the gesture, the simple reminder that the more fortunate have not forgotten, was important.

For one thing, it reminded us what it means when officials and others say the recovery will take a long time. We may tend to think of that in terms of a long time to sort out the program details and channels through which government aid will flow, to replace drywall and floor boards and generally get the physical world put back together.

It’s easy to forget that the basic human need caused by such a disaster also lingers and often gets worse for people later than it was right after the event.

Hundreds of Dickinson residents turned up for the special event Wednesday at a recovery center in the Mall of the Mainland, which had stayed open a few hours later than normal. They came for very basic things — hot meals, cleaning supplies, bath soap and diapers.

The groups involved in the event — among them Gulf Coast Interfaith, the American Red Cross, Catholic Charities, The Galveston County Diaper Bank, the Galveston County Food Bank, The Houston Food Bank, Undies for Everyone, the Boy Scouts of Maryland, the Galveston Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Baptist Men’s Association — are to be commended for realizing that lingering, basic need.

We were reminded of lessons we learned six months after Hurricane Ike from Dr. Michael Stone, a psychiatrist at the University of Texas Medical Branch, who likened the aftermath of a disaster to the effects of a death in the family.

“If you look at what happens when a death occurs in a family, the family gets together and people come around and help out and there’s a church service and people help with food,” Stone told a Daily News reporter back then.

“After a couple of days, pretty much everyone leaves and that person is left with that grief.”

At the time, we were reporting about the lingering psychological consequences for people who had lost things to a storm, and even those who simply experienced it, and Stone was speaking about stress, anxiety and the other effects of loss.

People are suffering from those psychological effects of the storm, of course, and that shouldn’t be forgotten, but his thought applies to the physical needs as well.

That may be especially true right now.

School has resumed. Locals who were spending a lot of time helping their neighbors have had to get back to their own lives; people from out of town have had to go home. The holidays are just around the corner.

It’s a good time for a lot of small acts of kindness and concern. It’s a good time to call friends or acquaintances and ask how they are, or to do something for someone who has not asked. Give them a gift card, buy them a bag of groceries.

It’s a good time to remind people they have not been forgotten.

• Michael A. Smith

Michael A. Smith: 409-683-5206; michael.smith@galvnews.com

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