DALLAS - She drove 275 miles to Dallas, unable to convince her mother-in-law, a woman watching eight grandkids, to follow.
Rakeitha Garner-Bean and her husband, Jeffery, found refuge in Dallas, but found no peace knowing the matriarch of their family was at 1711 James Bowie Drive, on a pacemaker, surrounded by water.
"We went for days not knowing if she would be safe in Baytown," Garner-Bean said in an interview Tuesday. "We tried to get boats from the Cajun Navy to save her, nothing worked."
Family members took all they could to the Walnut Hill Rec Center, home to 300 others from as far as Corpus Christi. Five days after settling north, hope arrived from Baytown.
"They got her!" Garner-Bean shouted. "She's in the gym of the Cedar Bayou Baptist Church back home."
But as the deluge divided families, a new challenge surfaced for Rakeitha and her husband, a challenge shared among thousands across the state.
"Now, we just have to get her here."
Busses expected Tuesday morning were delayed, with freeways along the Gulf Coast still impassible. Officials at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center said the mega-shelter was barely filled into the afternoon, with around 100 in a space capable of receiving 5,000 people.
But in a dozen interviews at Walnut Hill Rec Center, a shelter filled to capacity, families said that a new outlook has now emerged - Dallas could soon become home.
The moment echoed scenes from Hurricane Katrina, when families reunited in Houston and remained in the Bayou City, abandoning neighborhoods they once knew for generations.
"We probably have nothing back in Baytown," said Calvin Isaac, as he clutched his nine-month-old son. "My girlfriend is delivering a baby girl next month. I'm not sure if we can go back to our old home, to the wreckage."
Residents of the Red Cross shelter began to walk around the surrounding neighborhoods, envisioning homes of their own. Good Shepherd Episcopal School, a short drive from the cots and portable showers, started allowing students from the shelter to enroll - with no questions asked.
"The schools are good here, the jobs are good, and I believe God makes everything happen for a reason," Isaac said. "This may be my reason."
The bus from Good Shepherd dropped off about a dozen students at Walnut Hill just after 3 p.m., kids beaming with bulky backpacks and sounds of shouting echoing across the packed parking lot.
Parents lifted their kids up into the air, as if nothing had changed.
"Welcome home," a volunteer said to a family of four, lunch boxes, stuffed animals, and homework in tow. "Let's get inside and get started so you can go back tomorrow."
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