Today is the 105th anniversary of the Galveston hurricane, which killed 8000 people in 1900. To commemorate the occasion, Galveston's Judge Susan Criss has written the following open letter to the Katrina evacuees here:
Dear Visitors from Louisiana, Mississippi & Alabama,
The first thing that I want you to know is that you are very welcome here. We are so glad that you are safe.
Many, many people here want to do what ever is necessary to help you. Please let us know what you need.
The second thing that I want you to know is that we understand what is to suffer through and survive hurricanes here. Although many of us have survived dangerous and destructive storms, none of us have suffered through a storm as horrific as Katrina.
But this island that is our home has. Up until Katrina this nation's worst natural disaster was the Storm of 1900. September 8, 2005 is the 105th anniversary of that hurricane.
Over 8000 lives were lost. Three fourths of Galveston was completely destroyed by the 150 miles per hour winds and the 15 and a half foot storm surge.
There had not been any evacuation. The storm was not expected. People climbed up to their attics. Many ended up spending the night clinging to tree limbs. When daylight came and the storm had passed they found corpses all over the streets and yards.
Water was contaminated. Clara Barton, the founder of The American Red Cross, came here to help with the relief effort. There was concern over sanitation, disease, disposing of the dead and looting. Galveston was under martial law for a week.
Some questioned whether it made sense to rebuild. Some moved up the coast to to Houston. But most stayed and began the challenging work of rebuilding.
Before the storm Galveston was 9 feet below sea level. After the cleanup, city officials decided to "raise the grade". The entire city was raised by 17 feet. The lifting of the city began in 1903 and cost about 3 and a half million dollars. They also built our seawall.
In the year 2000 we celebrated the 100 year anniversary of Galveston's surviving the Storm of 1900. We thanked God that our ancestors had the courage and foresight to rebuild this beautiful home of ours. We realized that many bonds had formed between families who rode out the storm together. Those bonds have survived several generations and exist today.
A statue of a man holding his family with his hand reaching up towards heaven was put on the seawall to honor the spirit of the survivors.
We live in a wonderful city that was rebuilt after being destroyed by a hurricane. We know that your cities can be rebuilt. If it was possible in 1900, it is possible now.
Our ancestors could not have rebuilt this city without hope despite overwhelming desperation and fear. Please remember that hope is there for you also.
May God bless you and keep you safe.