When Miguel Chavez heard noises in his apartment bedroom at 6 a.m., Aug. 26, he thought someone was in his room. What he found instead was water from Hurricane Harvey.

“The first thing I see is one of my ‘Chucks’ floating by the end of my bed, then my trash can by my table was floating by,” the LU history instructor said. “It just seemed so surreal. When I stepped onto the floor, the water was above my knee. I opened the door to look outside, and the neighborhood was flooded.”

Chavez moved to Beaumont from Santa Monica, Calif., in August to take up his new position at Lamar as assistant professor of history.

“This was not the welcome I expected from Beaumont,” he said. “How you saw on the news, people being rescued on boats — that was my experience. The fire department was expecting us to walk from our location to the other end of the neighborhood. They warned us that the water would be up to our chests.”

Chavez said that his experience made him feel good about his new community.

“I appreciated the efforts that strangers made to support their neighbors,” he said. “When I first got here, I was aware of the hurricane, but I never believed one would actually touch down in Beaumont and cause the damage that it did.”

Chavez said Mary Scheer, head of the history department, and her husband picked him up from the shelter and let him stay with them for a week.

“They helped me recover things from my apartment,” he said. “I lost my furniture, I lost a third of my library, my digital archives where I keep my syllabus, drafts for articles, book manuscripts — and my car was flooded and would not turn on.”

Brendan Gillis is also a new assistant professor to the history department, and to hurricanes.

“The most traumatic experience for me was when the water went out in the middle of the night,” he said. “The worst of the storm had already passed, but I did not have power, and then the noises in the hot water heater started. I turned on the tap, and there was no water at 2 a.m. That was the moment that I thought, ‘Wow, this is going to take some serious recovery.’

“I am new to Beaumont and I didn’t have strong ideas about what life or people were like. But seeing how everyone was in good spirits while we were waiting in

“The community really banded together and volunteered. There were students out rescuing people out in boats. I think it’s sometimes easy to get the sense these days that there are people divided, the anger, the suspicions of others motives. But it was reassuring to see that when there is danger, that the first reaction of a lot of people was to go out and help each other.”

Assistant communication professor Awais Saleem watched the news with his family in their Port Neches home.

“When it rained heavily, the water came to the threshold of my entrance, but never came inside,” he said. “I have experienced hurricanes first-hand and knew how to prepare for it. I was well stocked on supplies, water, emergency light, gas tank for my car and other related stuff, and didn’t really face any difficulty.”

Like Chavez, Saleem was impressed by the volunteerism in the wake of the storm.

“I think it was a great example how people can rally around to pool their efforts and resources to make a difference instead of just looking towards the government and other agencies for everything in the hour of need and emergency,” he said.

While Gillis and Saleem escaped unscathed, Chavez moved into Cardinal Village until he could find new lodgings.

“I want to focus on the positive,” he said. “Despite not having the smooth start that I had initially planned, living nearby has afforded me the opportunity to work and start over.”

Story by Sierra Kondos, UP staff writer

Learn more about Lamar University at lamar.edu

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