Today the Dallas Morning News issued its traditional annual award of Texan of the year. The winner: the city of Houston. (The "proof of the world's impending end" bit is about the traditional rivalry between Houston and Dallas; Houston is the larger city but sits on coastal swampland; Dallas has all the glamor. I really never thought I'd see the day when the Dallas newspaper praised Houston.)
Really, those outside the city have no idea what we've been through this year. Right after Katrina I reported the original estimates that we had 100,000 guests from New Orleans and vicinity; we now know that the original estimate was far too low, the real number having been closer to 300,000 unexpected guests come upon us in a single week. Some went home when they could. But between Katrina and Rita which devastated neighboring Beaumont, we have now around 150,000 new permanent residents more than we had a few short months ago. To say it has been a long haul and a struggle these last months would be a stunning understatement. But Houston has always been fond of its neighboring cities along I-10, Beaumont and New Orleans, and we would never dream of turning away our guests. Most of the 150,000 still here plan on staying.
My only regret in Houston taking the top spot for Texan of the year means that we bumped Lance Armstrong down to the #2 spot in what, in any other year, would have been his year. Lance has the same Texas spirit: "I don't care what the odds are, I'm planning to win anyway."
Selected previous posts on Houston's year
August 31, 2005 with caravan of 500 buses on the way
September 2, 2005 roundup of best efforts; estimates of 100,000 guests
September 18, 2005 A look inside a megashelter
September 28, 2005: my next-door-neighbor's life saved by 4 Katrina evacuees during the Rita evacuation
So this year Houston saw the largest shelter effort in American history, followed immediately by the largest evacuation in American history (away from Houston as a Category 5 storm took aim at us), and a trip to the World Series.
The massive effort to cope with the new population is far from over. We're scrambling to increase our police force and other services. But having some recognition -- especially from a customary rival -- was very touching and welcome.