Read an Excerpt
In this book, divine nudges are not a gentle reminder that you need to try a little harder to be a bit kinder to your friend or family member. To be honest, if only we all did precisely that much every day of our lives all day long, we just might stop war and domestic violence and empty our prisons. Divine nudges in our stories are 'divine get-a-clue' situations that drastically alter our lives, our career paths and our relationships for the good.
These moments may be what many would consider traumatic: sudden loss of employment, divorce or romantic breakup, sudden death of a partner, death of a best friend, unexpected job relocation, tragic loss of a dwelling due to fire, flood, earthquake, hurricane or tsunami, or a very serious health issue.
Just to give one example of how divine nudges can help people get to a better place in their lives, look at the area of domestic violence.
For over two decades I have worked with, spoken out for and supported in my own way the victims of domestic violence. For these women and their abused children, escaping their violent husbands or boyfriends is incredibly traumatic. As horrific as their lives are inside the walls of abuse, it is their comfort zone. Most women stay in these marriages and relationships for financial security or because their religion teaches they cannot divorce. For some, it is family pressure that makes them stay. They are told that the embarrassment of a divorce is greater than the physical violence or verbal threats to the abused victim. In far too many instances, the woman fears that her husband will murder her or the children if she leaves. Too many times, these threats are real.
When an abused woman finally finds the courage to escape her abuser, the alteration in her life requires substantial angelic intervention. It may happen on the day when her husband has threatened physical violence and finally hits her.
She is bruised and bleeding, but she leaves him shortly thereafter. For years she has tolerated verbal abuse. She has been 'put down' in public. Most abusers cut their victim's ability to communicate with their family or friends. Abusers are possessive and obsessive. They demand to be made the center of the universe. It is 'their way or the highway.' To maintain control, abusers must 'up the ante' over a period of years until the time comes when they reach their boiling point and physical violence becomes their next step.
Many times circumstances that to the victims of abuse seem completely out of their control occur that cause the abuser to explode. This explosion can be quite violent. However, this eruption is the very moment of the divine nudge. The victim must finally make a decision, on her own, to leave. She can't go back anymore. She can't take it anymore, and her only option is to leave.
Once she is out on her own, she begins to think of her life with all new rules, parameters and options. She has begun to live her life for herself by her rules.
The victim then realizes that she has been 'nudged' from a negative plane of existence to a much higher plane of love and abundance. She must realize she can 'live without him' and his money. Most importantly, she must believe in herself enough to face the world alone. This woman's life and those of her children, if she has any, have been greatly 'nudged' into a divine sphere.
A divine nudge happens fairly quickly. The situation portrayed in the Broadway play The Fantasticks is a divine nudge. A boy and girl live next door to each other, and though they love each other, their love is untested.
A carnival comes to town, and in the space of forty-eight hours, the heroine is romanced by a 'carny' who promises to show her exotic, foreign-sounding places. The hero is jumped and beaten by thugs, and during his incarceration he thinks only of the heroine. He realizes his love for her is very strong. It is enough to give him the courage to escape, no matter what the consequences. Once reunited, they both realize they nearly lost each other. Infused with the realization of the power of this love for each other, they vow never to take the other for granted again. Within the space of two short days, the perspective of their lives is drastically altered.
A divine nudge occurs when a total stranger enters your life for only a brief moment or a single day and shows you the tools of your talent or a destiny that perhaps you didn't even know you had or that has been lying dormant for years.
Divine nudges are meant to keep your universe in divine order.
The Angelic Traffic Ticket
The mystical meetings humans endlessly dream about the most are those of finding true soul mates. This desire is the fuel of movies, books, songs and music videos. There is some deep well in the human psyche that tells even the most skeptical of cynics that somewhereout thereis a single 'right' mate for each and every one of us. This kind of meeting is more than just physical attraction, more than camaraderie or a comfortable at-home feeling when you are with the other person. Soul mate conjunctions are born of fire and thunder, and a tangible, sweet calm pervades the atmosphere whenever the two finally bond. Friends, family and strangers see itthis magical aura that cocoons the lovers. It is the thing that protects the soul mates from harm and keeps them together. Is it a blessing from God? Definitely. Is it earned somehow in this lifetime or a past lifetime? Who knows. But the real question is, how do I know if I've met my soul mate?
The story of Jenni and Brad has miraculous signs staked all around them. If you are angelically aware, you'll see them.
Jenni is a very dear friend of mine who lives in Houston. She is a single mother, making it on her own like many others. But despite hardships and pain, Jenni has a light inside her that barrels up from her soul like a steamroller and bursts through her blazing brown eyes and constant, brilliant smile. She is beautiful on the outside, yes, but she's even more wondrous on the inside.
Last December Jenni drove to Austin from Houston to attend to a speeding ticket she'd received weeks earlier. She had her two-year-old daughter in the car, and they had no more than gotten on the road to make it to Austin for her court date, when the worst snow and ice storm in years struck.
The fact that it was snowing in nearly subtropical Texas is strange in itself. Commonly, December brings snow to the panhandle of our great state, but for us in Houston, it's rare. Therefore, we are not accustomed to driving on ice. Jenni's two-hour trip turned into four hours. Her daughter, sensing her mother's tension, was afraid as well. By the time she got to Austin and dropped her daughter off at her mother's house, Jenni's nerves were frayed.
To make matters even worse, Jenni finally got to the courthouse on time and found a note on the door that court had been canceled due to inclement weather. Now those frayed nerves split in a hundred different directions. She felt as if she'd risked her life and that of her only child's for nothing.
Jenni decided she wanted to calm down before going back to her mother's, so she stopped at Hudson's on the Bend. This is an obscure, out of the way, elegant restaurant and not patronized by the happy-hour crowd. In other words, the place was nearly empty when Jenni walked in. There is a huge fireplace and lovely tables in cozy, peaceful surroundings. It was just what Jenni needed.
As Jenni tells it, there were only seven people in the entire restaurant due to the ice storm. As she ordered some dinner and a glass of wine, she noticed a particularly handsome man about her age, sitting across the room from her. From time to time as she would look up, she would see him glance her way. She smiled, but then looked away. The man began staring at her so intensely that he made her nervous. She wasn't afraid of him, nor did she think he was strange, but she got the distinct feeling that he wanted to speak to her. She told herself that she was a single woman, and she was perfectly within social boundaries to go up and speak to him, but she lost her courage. Finally, a male friend of hers joined her for dinner. They finished their meal, and as she left, Jenni thought to herself, 'Gosh, I hope that guy doesn't think that Eric is my boyfriend. He's just a friend.' Within seconds she stopped herself again, thinking, 'I'm losing my mind! I will never see that guy again. And after all, we only looked at each other across a room.'
Christmas came and went. The New Year was ushered in. February rolled around and so did Jenni's rescheduled court date for her speeding ticket.
Back to Austin she drove. For the second time, her court date was rescheduled. Once again, her day was not going well. On this particular evening she had arranged to meet a man she had been dating at a funky Asian restaurant in an old house with stars and moons adorning the red walls, called Mars.
She was ushered to a table, knowing that her date was due to arrive any moment. Suddenly, her cellular phone rang and her date, who was in Dallas, stated that the weather had turned ugly and that his flight had been canceled. He was not going to make their dinner date. It was the perfectly bad ending to a perfectly bad day.
Instead of leaving, she decided to simply order dinner. She was half-finished with her meal when a very handsome man was seated only two tables away from her. He pulled out his cellular phone, Palm Pilot and a book. She assessed that he was intentionally alone, whereas she had been stood up.
The man glanced at her, smiled and then looked at her again. She smiled back, knowing from his demeanor that he wanted to speak with her. Finally, he asked, 'What did you order?'
The ice was broken. He asked her to join him at his table. He ordered dinner, and they began talking. Their conversation flowed easily, as if they'd known each other all their lives or had been fast friends and had just found each other again.
At one point, Jenni went to the ladies' room. While in the bathroom, she looked at her reflection in the mirror and thought to herself, 'This could be the guy for me. This feels so right.' Then she stopped herself.
'That's crazy! I just met him! What am I thinking?'
But as she started out the door she stopped herself and said, 'But you never know.'
Rather than being afraid of her natural intuitions and feelings, she had the courage to allow these thoughts to rest comfortably inside her, like a bird coming home to the nest.
They talked all night, at least until they closed the restaurant. Brad said to Jenni, 'I'm not ready to have this end. Would you join me for a drink at the Four Seasons?'
Uncharacteristically, Jenni not only agreed, but she got into his car with him. This action was something Jenni absolutely, positively never, ever does. She amazed herself at how at ease she was with Brad. They shared more conversation and a drink. Then Brad drove her back to her car where they said their good-byes.
'You know, Jenni,' Brad said, 'I don't get to Lakeway that much. But I know a wonderful place where we could go next time I'm here and you're here. It's called Hudson's on the Bend.'
'It's one of my favorites!' Jenni exclaimed.
'I haven't been there for the longest time . . . not since, well, the ice storm back in December.'
In that split second they both stared wide-eyed at each other. Goose bumps enveloped Jenni as Brad said, nearly in shock, 'That was you! You wore a red sweater and black leather pants.'
'It was me, Brad,' Jenni said.
For the next two weeks, Brad telephoned Jenni every day. They found their likes, dislikes and goals were on an even parallel. Finally, after two weeks they had their actual first date.
Author's Note: May 2005. This story took place years ago. Today Jenni and Brad have been married for several years and now live in Austin. Their lives couldn't be happier.
Fortunately for them, their awareness of life is a bit more keen than most and a bit more grateful. They know their extraordinary journey to find each other was not coincidence, not a fluke. They are proof that when heaven intervenes in the mortal world, ours is not to question. It is to accept, live and love.
The Great Flood, Part 1
n spring 2001, I promised to pick up a friend who was flying in from overseas at five o'clock in the morning at Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
As a general rule when doing this, I have a habit of setting three alarm clocks and then lie in bed with one eye open just knowing that those clocks aren't going to work. By the time I finally get up at four to walk the doggies, start a pot of coffee and get dressed, I'm exhausted. I have done this for years and I would like to think that by now I have moved into the groove on this, but I haven't.
Because I'm so worried about anyone who travels on those long international flights, or any flight for that matter, it never, ever occurs to me to worry about myself or what is going on down here below.
This particular time, while I was pretending to sleep, watching the clock, Houston experienced a torrential rainstorm. We'd been having a great deal of rain that entire spring, due to the weather systems of La Niña and El Niño, which had dried up Texas like a skeleton of tumbleweed, but this rainfall was more than severe. I was to discover later that it was a killing storm. It was the night of the century's worst flood in Houston. Little did I realize that within hours newscasters would deem it 'The Great Flood.'
That morning I was fully aware of the pounding rain, thunder and lightning enough to phone the airport to inquire if it was still open. When I finally got through, I discovered that planes were indeed landing, and not only that, but my friend Alan's flight was twenty minutes early!
I grabbed the golf umbrella and walked the dogs out to the street for a quick 'tinkle,' then raced with them back to the garage where they jumped into the back of my Tahoe.
With a hot tumbler of coffee in my hand, we set out on our journey. I shut the garage door with the electric opener, never giving a thought to the fact that I had not checked the weather report on the weather channel. My friend was arriving early, and I had to get to that airport.
From my house in the Galleria area, it's a quick hop up onto the 610 South Loop. As I drove through the rainy streets, I thought to myself how very dark everything was at that hour of the morning. In fact, it was so dark, I couldn't even see the grass and flowers on the side of the road.
'It's always darkest before the dawn' went through my mind.
I told myself there was some natural explanation as to why it was so pitch black. Must be something with the earth's angle, the rising sun. The setting moon. That had to be it.
I got up to the Loop and headed north for a few miles before I veered off from the 290 interchange at I-10, which ran east and west, and then took the 610 North Loop.
Pelting rain kept me from going too fast, which gave me time to realize there was an inordinate number of cars parked along the shoulders of the freeway. My first thought was that they had parked last night during the worst of the storm. Because I'd been half awake all night long, I was aware of how forceful the wind and rain had been at points in time.
Peering into the parked cars, however, I noticed that most had been abandoned. I thought nothing more of it and continued on.
In the back of the Tahoe I always put the long bench seat down and keep one captain's chair up for Beau, the oldest Golden Retriever. He likes to sit where he can watch people out the window. Bebe always rides with her front paws on the console between the driver and passenger. That way she can watch what's coming from the driver's perspective. Junior, the eighteen-month-old, walks around from window to window and usually watches the passing cars and scenery out the back. He's sort of my 'border patrol.' All three are terrified of thunder. I've seen Beau lift all fours completely off the ground if it's a big enough boomer. He is old enough and sharp enough to know that when lightning streaks across the sky, he'd better brace for the noise. If he could, he'd put his paws over his ears.
This gives you a good idea of what I had going on inside the Tahoe as we drove another ten miles or so to the junction at I-45 North and South. My route is to continue on 610 East through the spaghetti bowl of ramps and exits for I-45 onto the Hardy Toll Road and then out to the airport.
I was surprised at the number of cars and trucks on all the freeways this early on a Saturday morning. Just as we were coming up to the junction I noticed that all the cars were slowing down.
'Not an accident!' I said aloud, easing up on the gas.
The rain was still coming down. Again I noticed how extremely black everything seemed. I slowed the Tahoe to nearly a standstill. As I peered out of the front windshield I saw that the cars were completely stopped on both I-45 North and South. Next, the cars in the eastbound lanes of 610 had stopped. Rather than pulling up behind anyone, I veered off to the left and stopped in the painted triangle that separates the lanes at 610 and the I-45 North ramp.
'This isn't right. Something is wrong,' I said to myself.
Bebe nuzzled my neck. Then she froze on point. Her eagle eyes saw something moving.
I squinted into the blackness.
Up ahead I saw not one, or two, but four or five people open their doors and literally jump out of their cars. They raced to the I-45 northbound ramp, ran up the embankments and pavement, and then I saw them hang over the railing as if looking down on something.
'What in the world is going on?' I was mystified.
My nature is never, ever to turn back. My nature is to either sit very patiently and wait for traffic to clear or to find a way to keep going forward.
Suddenly, it was as if time stood still. All three dogs sensed danger. They stopped panting.
In my head, I could almost hear them talking to me. Like doggie telepathy.
'Mom, we can't stay here. Go home.'
My thoughts at that second were that even if there was some terrible accident, I could never get to the airport on time. Also, it would be cruel of me to make the dogs sit in the car for a half hour or hour or longer without food or water.
I had absolutely no clue whatsoever what was going on up ahead, but my instincts kicked in, and I decided to turn around and go back.
My greatest, all-time, number one fear of all fears has always been that I would find myself in a situation in which I was forced to drive down the freeway going the wrong direction facing oncoming traffic. As clichèd as the 'freeway car chase' is in movies, it scares the living daylights out of me to watch those scenes. I positively never wanted to be John Candy driving the wrong way with some semitruck coming at me in a rainstorm.
Well, at that moment, that's exactly what was happening. As I turned the Tahoe around, two other cars decided to follow my lead. Why they would do this, I didn't know.
'They must be as crazy as I am. Or maybe they have dogs in the car with them, too.'
I turned on my hazard lights and inched my way down the shoulder.
Cars came at me, honking, waving me back, rolling down their windows and cursing me. Giving me the finger. I didn't care. White-knuckled, I clung to that steering wheel and kept going. My heart was racing a mile a minute. I have never been that terrified in my life. (Well, maybe when the armed robber stuck a gun to my forehead and told me he was going to kill me, I've been that scared. But that's another story.)
For miles, I drove against the abusive rain and oncoming traffic.
It was too much for the woman in the car directly behind me. She stopped her car and parked on the shoulder. She couldn't go on. The next car back wove around her and followed me.
Finally, I got to a point where 290 and 610 South feed onto 610 East. Here, I had to cross over six lanes of traffic in order to get up onto a different section of highway.
Terrified, I panicked. I stopped my car. I burst into tears. I couldn't do it. I couldn't get home.
The dogs were scared, too, I knew. I could feel their tension. They could feel mine.
At that moment, the itsy-bitsy compact car behind me wove around me. I could see a young man waving at me to follow him. He was young, I thought. He didn't know better. It wasn't that he had more courage; it was that he didn't realize the precariousness of the situation.
But right then, I needed his naïveté to lead us. His lack of knowledge just might save us. I followed him across all the lanes, darting in and around the oncoming cars who blared their horns at us both.
But we made it!
Driving up the far left shoulder, we slowly crept onto the single-lane on-ramp. Now we faced a single file of half a dozen cars, lights blinding us as we forced them to let us exit the freeway.
Again they honked their horns and shouted at us.
We circled around under the freeway and for the first time in over a half hour, I was finally driving in the correct direction in the correct lane.
I breathed easier.
At the next light, I turned right onto the street that would lead me home. The young man in the compact went straight. I waved at him and he gave me the high sign as we parted company, strangers in the night, yet forever bonded because of our ordeal.
'Doggies, that young man was an angel,' I said. 'Thank you, God, for bringing him to me when I needed him.'
I drove home and got to the house just as the phone was ringing. I knew it was my friend.
'Hey, I'm here!' he said.
'Well, I'm not there, and I don't think I'm coming. Something terrible has happened.'
I grabbed the remote control for the television and turned on the news. I was shocked to see aerial photographs of the intersection where I'd just been. It was completely under water. The semitrucks that had passed me were floating down 610 and I-10.
'What's going on?' he asked.
'The city is immobile. We're flooded everywhere. I couldn't get through. I don't know what made me turn around and come home, but I just had a feeling that something awful was happening.'
'I can tell you there is something going on. I'm walking through the airport, and there must be thousands of people here. They are sleeping on the floors . . . and the monitors say that . . . oh, my God! All the flights have been canceled.'
'The television is showing everything now. It's a nightmare out there. Now I can see why it was so black all around me. It wasn't that it was dark. It was that it was all water up around and over the freeways!'
'Don't worry about me. I'm glad you are home and safe.'
We hung up, and as I watched television that morning, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. At predawn the newscasters were already calling the flood the worst in Houston's more than 150-year history. By noon, it was declared a federal disaster area. The Red Cross was out in full force. National media now referred to it as 'The Great Flood.'
At five o'clock in the afternoon I watched an interview with a truck driver who had been forced to 'swim for his life.' To my astonishment, I realized he was talking about the exact same place I'd been twelve hours earlier.
'This wasn't just floodwaters,' the truck driver said. 'The water came rushing at us like a wall. One minute I was passing around cars and the next, my trailer and I were floating. I rolled down my window and jumped out in time to swim to safety. I had wondered why all of a sudden cars had slowed to a halt. I had seen people jumping out of their cars and then running up the exit and on-ramps, hanging over the railings. I wished I would have had the good sense to turn around, but that was impossible with a big rig like mine. I did see a few SUVs and cars turn around and face the oncoming traffic.'
My eyes bugged out of my head as I watched that man on television. 'That was me he saw!' I said aloud to the dogs.
They looked up at me, and all three smiled in that way that only Golden Retrievers can. It was as if they were saying, 'We know, Mom. We were the ones who told you to turn around.'
'Thanks,' I said and hugged them all.
I was reminded of the research I did for Wings of Destiny, my historical novel about the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco. For hours before the great quake, horses whinnied, dogs barked, cocks crowed and coyotes in the hills bayed, sounding an early alarm, but few listened.
Perhaps it was that research that saved our lives the night of the Great Flood. My memory banks could have kicked in somewhere back in that obscure vault, alerting me to my own animal instincts. Maybe it was mental telepathy from my pets. Also, it could have been an angel on my shoulder whispering in my ear.
All I know is that we escaped imminent disaster, and I will always be grateful.
The Great Flood, Part 2
he Saturday morning of the Great Flood in Houston, Texas, my friend Alan walked out of the International terminal thinking he'd find a shuttle bus to take him to the main terminal. Instead, he found the normally jam-packed loading and unloading docks empty.
'This is like a ghost town,' he said, scratching his head. There were no taxis, no buses, no Park 'N Fly shuttles, no passenger cars, limos. Nothing. His only choice was to walk to the main terminal, which he did.
By this time, the rain had subsided. At the airport the sun was peeking out from behind the canopy of clouds. Alan entered the terminal from the baggage claim area doors, and as he stepped inside he was stunned.
'This looks like a World War II movie scene!'
Lying on the floor, in the chairs, up against the baggage carousels were not hundreds, but thousands of sleeping people. It was only five-thirty in the morning; therefore, most people were still sleeping. Babes in arms, students, entire tour groups were just beginning to rouse.
The impact of the scene drove home to Alan the seriousness of the situation. What I had told him on the phone was not an exaggeration.
'This city is immobile,' I had said.
Making his way through the terminal, he finally found a television tuned to the news broadcast.
'George Bush Intercontinental Airport has been home to over six thousand stranded passengers last night due to Tropical Storm Allison. Officials at the airport state they are already running low on food and water. Transportation out of the terminal is nonexistent. All outbound flights are canceled, though planes are still landing, bringing thousands more to the city with no way of exiting the area.'
Alan was still in disbelief. 'I can't stay here. There's got to be a way out.'
Alan rode the escalator to the main floor hoping that the Continental President's Club was still open. He called me from his cellular. 'If there's no food or water in the main terminal, maybe the President's Club will still have some.'
'Alan, try to get some rest. They are saying on television you could be there for days!'
'I did not fly all this way to stay in an airport!'
'Alan, let's be realistic. No one can get to you.'
'I'll figure it out.'
The President's Club was still open, and he eventually found a vacant chair. He called his friend on the north side of Houston, thinking if he could make it to the Woodlands, he could then work his way home. At least he'd have a shower and clean bed for the next few days until the city dried out. However, his friend was flooded in. He could not get out of his street.
Alan called me and asked me to see if I could find Giles, a favorite cab driver. I called Giles, and he said, 'Miss Catherine, my house is flooded! I'm trying to save my family. Pray for us!'
Hanging up, I did just that. In fact, as the news worsened and story after story became horrific, I, like many Houstonians, prayed and prayed some more.
By eleven in the morning, Alan was frustrated, tired and hungry. He still was adamant about trying to get to his home. A hopeless hope.
Finally, he made the decision that he was going to try one more time to make it to town. He still believed there would be a cab. Outside the terminal doors were nearly five hundred people all looking for a cab. Alan's hope deflated.
He overheard some of the passengers saying that every twenty minutes to half an hour a cab would make it through. There still were no buses or shuttles. Still no passenger cars.
His hope puffed up again.
'If I don't find a cab in the next hour, I'm going to rent a locker, stow my hanging bag, and I'm going to walk home.' Alan was resolved.
At that moment a taxi drove up.
Like a swarm of locusts, the crowd descended upon the lonely cab. People shouted their destinations. The cab driver turned them all down.
The driver got out of the cab as more people begged for information about the city and about the condition of their destinations. His answer was always the same. 'Sorry. Impassable. I can't get there.'
The crowd dispersed, waiting for another taxi. Hoping against their hopes.
Alan stood off to the side, knowing that his vision of walking twenty-five miles to home was going to become a reality.
The cab driver left his taxi and walked straight up to Alan.
'You want to go to the Galleria, don't you, sir?'
'Why, yes!' Alan replied.
'I can take you there.'
'How is that possible? You just turned down all these people.'
'I just got a radio report from a buddy of mine. He made it through by going north of the city westbound on FM 1960 to 290 South and then . . .'
'. . . straight to nearly my backyard in the Galleria!'
The cabbie smiled. 'Yes, sir. That's about the size of it.'
Alan slapped the man on the back. 'You have just made yourself a lot of money.'
'Let's do it!'
Ironically, the route that brought Alan home entailed some of the same strip of freeway on which I had, only hours earlier, been forced to drive against the oncoming traffic! Because 290 is elevated almost entirely from the north side of the city into the Galleria area, little or none of it was affected by the floodwaters.
As Alan drove over the devastation, acres of flooded subdivisions, retail centers and freeways, he was brought near to tears. He could see people still standing on bridges and overpasses, looking down on their abandoned cars and homes.
'I've been to war, and that's so different, but this . . . I can hardly believe this is happening.'
Alan arrived home safe and sound. Later that afternoon, Alan came over, and we learned how close to death I had come. The newscaster stated that the great deal of flooding that had caused the 'wall of water' to race toward my Tahoe on the freeway had been caused when the International Ship Channel had backed up and flooded Buffalo Bayou, which connects to the Channel and then flows out into the Gulf of Mexico.
For the next days, even weeks, we watched the devastation of our city. Blessedly, where I lived was in a high enough area that my house was not affected; however, I had nowhere to go. It took days for the roads to become passable again, just for a few blocks. Communications were nonexistent. Calls were not allowed into the city. Power was off. Over twenty people were eventually found dead.
One of the things I have always admired and loved about Houston is the people. The willingness of the citizens of my city to help each other is astounding. Heroes were made in those days of danger, the likes of which I may never witness again. Ordinary citizens revved up their boats and paddled canoes, rescuing others from rooftops. The stories of strangers jumping into rushing waters to pull men, women and children out of sinking cars and trucks were commonplace.
A Houston Chronicle photographer, exhausted from taking photos all night long, finally started home through pitch-black streets when his motor died in the hubcap-high waters. Stepping out of his SUV, the water rushed him and torrents pulled him into a drainage ditch where he was neck deep, struggling for life for over an hour. A passerby drove up, took out a ski rope from his pickup and pulled him out of the water. To profuse thank-yous, the savior simply said, 'You would have done the same thing for me, wouldn't you?' Then he vanished.
Angel? Or human? In a crisis, what difference does it make? That same story was repeated thousands of times. Even as Hermann, Methodist and St. Luke's Episcopal hospitals shut down due to lack of electricity because of the flooding, and the patients were flown to surrounding area hospitals, we were all glued to our television sets, watching silently, impotently, while nature concluded its devastation of our city.
The chaos was staggering, yet at the same time, I watched a news crew from Channel 13 fly an emergency mission from one end of the city to save the life of a patient undergoing transplant surgery. Privately owned helicopters joined in the 'life-lift force,' bringing so many to safety. Children were plucked out of trees and off rooftops. Pets were saved from drowning by total strangers who then called the networks, placing bulletins about the animals' locations. Just as much care was taken to reunite pets with their owners as families with each other. Over six hundred cats and dogs were admitted to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in the wake of the storm. The staff worked seven-day weeks and staffed the phones for twenty-four hours daily until the crisis abated. Each time I saw a pet rescued, I thought of my own three Golden Retrievers and how torn I would be if anything happened to them. The response of Houstonians even to our pets made my heart swell with happiness, pride and hope.
Downtown was inundated. At 5:20 a.m. on June 9, the waters of Halls Bayou had crested at ninety-one feet, thirteen feet above the one-hundred-year floodplain. Four billion dollars worth of damage ensued.
One man dove under the water to retrieve his daughter's suitcases out of the trunk of her car. When he got below the water he found a semitruck sitting on top of his daughter's car. A woman died when her elevator hit the bottom floor, opened, and she drowned. The final death toll was twenty-two.
In the next few days as the waters receded, food drives, clothing drives, furniture drives, you-name-it-to-help drives became our lives.
One of the messages the angels have given me and others is that we are put on earth to serve God by helping people. Sometimes I think natural disasters occur only to give us that chance to help someone else. That is what I saw during the Great Flood. Neighbors saving neighbors. Strangers saving lives of strangers.
Through it all, everyone prayed. And our prayers were answered.
Even a month later, we were still digging out and drying out. We were still waiting for the power to come back on and for our lives to come together again. Downtown parking garages and buildings remained flooded. Houses were ruined; people were living in shelters or with friends, unable to return home.
Today, many houses have been rebuilt. The offices have reclaimed, freeways fixed and new bridges built. Houstonians will never forget the night of the Great Flood. We will never forget the multitude of angels who flocked together, saving us, our children and our pets.
It was a night when human beings were the answer to their own prayers.
©2007. Catherine Lanigan. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Divine Nudges : Tales of Angelic Intervention. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442