Hurricane Harvey leaves behind millions of victims in its path of destruction.
Durant is far removed from this natural disaster, but one victim has a direct Durant connection and faces tremendous loss for herself and her family.
Shawna Brock Fugate and her family are in the early stages of realization of the tragedy of their lives.
She attended Washington Irving Elementary through graduation at Durant High School.
She said her her heart is still in Durant.
In a conversation Wednesday, she related part of her tragedy that she could put into words.
She said photographs don’t tell the whole story, either.
Her family’s home was heavily damaged with most of its contents destroyed.
She and her family are trying to put the pieces of their lives back together.
Today, they don’t know how those pieces will come together, or when.
Many of the pieces are gone, never to be recovered.
The Fugates live in the Champions area of Houston that was hit hard by Harvey.
She said their home survived two major floods, one was a 100-year flood.
She said because of that, “We never imagined our home flooding. We went outside to make a barricade, and within six hours we had to evacuate our home. All we were able to get were the clothes they had on. We told our kids to grab a weekend bag. I packed a suitcase for me and my husband.”
Her husband Jason and their children Garrett, age 13, and Ellie Francis, age 10, beat the rising water and made it out safely.
She said, “We thought the worst-case scenario was the water would get up to the baseboards.”
Instead they had 4 feet of what she calls “raw sewage.”
Fugate said they left to go to a friend’s home around the corner who’s home was a little higher.
The next morning, they had to evacuate that woman’s home.
They were able to save their friend’s deceased son’s mementos and prized possessions by putting them on the top floor of that home.
That was something they weren’t able to do in their own home, save precious mementos, because of time constraints.
In the face of their own tragedy, they still helped a neighbor who was helping them.
She said, “We then went to a different friend’s home, then Tuesday, went to another friend’s home.”
They haven’t been able to really go home until Wednesday.
She lives in Houston, but Durant is her original home with roots deep here.
Her cousin in Judge Trace Sherrill.
She said, “I love Durant, but I moved away for my legal career. I’ve been here over 20 years. I’m Durant class of 1986. My sister is Stephanie Brock and brother is Todd Carlson.”
She still has many other ties to Durant.
Her grandmother was born and raised in Bryan County.
Many may remember her grandmother’s claim to fame.
She said, “My Grandmother, Francis Brock, wrote a letter to President Jimmy Carter about him not going through with campaign promises about him giving people air conditioning in Georgia. He called her while I was at her home. There was a story in the Durant Democrat years ago.”
Her daughter is named after her Grandmother Francis.
Her other Durant relatives are, cousins Rita, Cleta and Bill Brock, who she said many will know.
That story about her grandmother provided a moment of removal from the tragedy she faces, as she tells details of her family’s loss.
She said, “It’s been a harrowing thing to go through. I didn’t know that during a flood, the sewer backs up in the whole neighborhood. The drains get full, so there’s 4 feet of sewer in our home. It completely destroyed our downstairs. It destroyed our clothes because we thought it would only go as high as the baseboards.”
She said she knows others have their own tragedy and loss. She was reluctant to reach out or be the one who needed help.
Fugate said, “It’s been really hard for us to ask for help. For about 3 days we’ve thought we can do this by ourselves. We are very prideful people. The pride comes before the fall, right? We don’t need anyone’s help. We help everyone else. We are givers. We don’t take handouts.”
She said this morning, Wednesday, they realized they did need help.
Fugate said, “We admitted we cannot rebuild our lives without people helping us. People want to help us. They’ve asked us what they could do. So, my sister-in-law started a GoFundMe page for us.”
She said she’s grateful for what what help they get. That internet GoFundMe account has been set up to help the Fugates is called, “Fugate Family Hurricane Relief Fund” with $3,485 of a $10,000 goal met.
She said can’t say she has nothing, because some belongings are somewhat salvageable.
She’s attempting to sanitize the sewage from her family’s clothes.
She has a place to stay with her family, even though it’s not home.
They didn’t lose their lives, but most of what they do have, will never be the same.
She said, “Imagine pumping 4 feet of sewage into your house. The bathroom water has receded. When you step on the rugs, sewage comes up over your foot. Everything smells. We have no bedroom furniture or living room furniture. Our dining room table is in pieces on the front lawn.”
The rest of the family furniture she said is in rubble on the floor as most items decomposed being underwater for well over 2 days.
Fugate said she’s tried to put into words what she would say to those who can and choose to help her family, “Thank you is inadequate, but is absolutely all I have to offer right now.”
The hardest part she said, is seeing their children face the loss and tragedy of this disaster.
She as a mother, feels the pain her children feel, in addition to her own.
She’s trying to provide them answers and comfort where there is none.
She said, “Yesterday, I was able to put a stuffed animal on their bed. They are looking to us for comfort and peace and we have none ourselves. We have to give that to our kids.”
Contact Dan Pennington at (580) 634-2162 or firstname.lastname@example.org