Houstonian, Penn Undergraduate Nursing Student Writes About Hurricane Harvey

by Anita Söne Itaman

Every year Texas has its annual storm season, and every year we underestimate it.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​That’s because by the time the “hurricane” hits it’s nothing more than a hyperactive tropical storm, another underwhelming forecast. But when Hurricane Harvey hit, it was an unpleasant surprise. Not only did it meet the forecast expectations, but it exceeded them, bringing heavy rains and brutal winds with no end in sight. I never expected we would get a full-strength hurricane in Houston, let alone the wettest cyclone in United States history.

Imagine waking up in the middle of the night to find yourself knee deep in water, scrambling to save what’s left of your home? Imagine the only home you’ve ever known collapsing under the weight of heavy waters. You’ve never really needed flood insurance until now, but now it’s far too late. Imagine having no idea whether your loved ones are safe, relying on the news and social media for help. This is my grim reality and the grim reality faced by so many others in Hurricane Harvey’s path.

We have every right to sulk and be sorry. The businesses, homes, roads and cars that were destroyed number in the thousands and counting. Entire lives are on hold because of this storm, with no promise of ever returning to normal.

But instead of sulking, we thrive.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​People aren’t waiting in line for food or shelter; people are waiting in line to volunteer. My own family members are risking their lives every day to rescue those who are stranded and in need. My parents and sister, all registered nurses, venture out time and again to treat those who are sick and can’t get to help. They found one little boy alone and tired, so they spent a whole day feeding him and finding his family.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Their passion for helping people is what initially inspired me to become a nurse. Seeing them in action crystallized that this was the right decision for me. It also gave my training new meaning. Though I am still a beginner, I’ve already learned a great deal, and I am confident that the skills I am gaining at Penn will allow me to lead in a situation like Hurricane Harvey should I ever face one in the future.

​​​​​​​It’s not easy being so far away from home at a time like this, but knowing that people there are some of the most passionate, hard-working people I know makes it a little easier. Never in the 172 years of statehood have we let someone mess with Texas — and we sure aren’t about to start now.

Anita Söne Itaman is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing. Photos courtesy of Anita Itaman, Saat Itaman and Anna Itaman​​​​​​​. 

A flooded street in Houston after Hurricane Harvey.