I had never experienced the loss associated with a natural catastrophe until last month. I recently inherited my mom's condo on Galveston Island. We had always enjoyed the island since my mother "retired" there 15-years ago. And despite her passing, I had planned to continue the island experience in the next few years. But Hurricane Ike has put a damper on my plans.
While I was emptying out the condo, I had to remind myself that I was fortunate. Our building, while suffering from standing water damage and mold, is structurally sound. And I should be able to move stuff back in later this year.
But that was not the case for the rest of the island. From my unofficial estimate, only one out of three remaining structures seemed to be structural sound. There were areas still without phone or electrical service. And much of the island's charm, character, and legacy have been carted off to mainland landfills.
The Galveston loss hasn't had much national exposure. Financial woes, bailouts, and even sports have overshadowed the loss of the Island culture. I suspect that the island, which once hosted about 52,000 people, will return to be about half its former size.
But what bothers me most is that you and I know much of this loss should have been avoided.
When I wrote about our industry's efforts to promote stricter building codes following Hurricane Katrina, I made a fundamental mistake in my coverage. I misinterpreted the effort to be a marketing opportunity to promote concrete and masonry. It was probably something much more to the folks who did the work. They are trying to save lives, livelihoods, and neighborhoods.
One of my early mentors in this industry was Dick Gaynor from the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association. He often told me about his involvement in demonstrating concrete's important role in the drafting of the fire and safety codes in the 1950s and 1960s. He implied that this effort held an important tenant in his career.
I plan to make Galveston my home away from home, when I can move back. And it's time I follow Gaynor's example to work towards a safer world. I'd like and try to help show my fellow Galvestonians that concrete and masonry is the way to rebuild a sustainable community
I have no idea on how I can do it. I want to actively join in any ongoing industry effort. And be forewarned, I'm going to use the power of the press to solicit help from everyone to make this happen.
So stay tuned for more.