Day 7: 'Everybody will pull together' (w/video)

Marina Riker By Marina Riker

Aug. 29, 2017 at 9:12 p.m.
Updated Aug. 29, 2017 at 8 p.m.

Delia Garza, 56, walks into what's left of her kitchen. Her home on Villarreal Street in Tivoli was destroyed by Hurricane Harvey. The past few days she has been collecting personal belongings and mementos. "Tivoli, to me, is a town where everybody is like a family. It's like one big family," Garza said.

Delia Garza, 56, walks into what's left of her kitchen. Her home on Villarreal Street in Tivoli was destroyed by Hurricane Harvey. The past few days she has been collecting personal belongings and mementos. "Tivoli, to me, is a town where everybody is like a family. It's like one big family," Garza said.   Ana Ramirez for The Victoria Advocate

TIVOLI - It wasn't until three days after Hurricane Harvey struck Texas that Delia Garza, 56, finally scrubbed off her Social Security number written in pen on her arm.

"I had my social on one leg and one arm," said Garza, who lives in Tivoli. "They were going to identify me one way or another."

As the storm destroyed her trailer Friday night, she took shelter in her father's home across the street, where she and her sister prayed with rosary beads in a bathroom, just steps away from the room they shared as little girls.

"To tell you the truth, I have never seen my town under this much destruction - I never have," she added. "With all this destruction, I'm hoping that everybody does get together to get Tivoli back."

By Tuesday, Hurricane Harvey had killed 14 people and decimated communities throughout 50 counties affected in Texas. No deaths have been reported in Tivoli or the Crossroads.

As deadly flooding in Houston made national headlines, thousands of rural Texas communities lost homes and businesses - and found themselves miles from disaster relief shelters, grocery stores and gas stations.

But in Tivoli, a town of fewer than 500 residents, some people don't believe they're worse off. Even though the town could be without running water or electricity for weeks, residents are hopeful Tivoli has the strength to rebuild itself after the tragedy.

"Tivoli, to me, is a town where everybody is like a family," Garza said. "It's like one big family."

As looters picked through abandoned stores in cities from Victoria to Houston, a local convenience store in Tivoli was untouched - even when the storm shattered the glass to its storefront. The day after the storm, neighbors with all-terrain vehicles and trucks leaped into action, going door to door to make sure the town's residents survived the night.

With electricity expected to be out for weeks, Kim Stiles, 51, borrowed a grill from a neighbor to barbecue food before it spoiled. Her neighbor helped load it onto the bed of her silver pickup truck, but then a fallen utility line caught the grill, sending it flying onto the pavement.

"I wanted it clean anyway," she joked, while she and the neighbor loaded it back onto the truck.

When they finally got the grill to Stiles' home, she started dragging large pieces of debris to build bridges over pools of water near neighbors' homes. She knew which of them stayed or fled before Harvey hit the area, and whether they would return to homes that were missing roofs or crushed by trees.

"It's a different town," Stiles said.

Just a couple blocks away, Garza, who worked at the local Dairy Queen, had lost her home and job to the storm, at least for the time being. But she wasn't going to abandon her town, which is home to four generations of her family.

When asked where she planned to live, she sighed.

"To tell you the truth, I really don't know," she said, attempting to hold back tears. "I have nowhere to live."

All that remained of her single-wide trailer, which she shares with her niece and her 6-year-old daughter, was soaked by rain and ripped apart by 140 mph winds. Nails protruded from exposed beams, while soggy dog food bubbled up in a dish on the floor.

The contents of her refrigerator, which included a slice of cherry pie, were some of the few items left untouched.

With her home destroyed, she planned to stay at her father's home, which was empty for the time being. The day after the storm, he was rushed to a hospital in Corpus Christi after FEMA officials realized his knee was infected. He had undergone surgery just hours before the storm made landfall Friday night.

Although a tree crushed the pale-yellow home's carport, the rest was spared. So Garza invited a family with four children, who had lost their house, to take shelter in her father's home.

"It's not just my family that needs help, everybody needs help," Garza said. "I'm hoping, I'm really hoping that everybody will pull together."

Related coverage

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Day 4: 'We thought we were going to die'

Day 5: 'At least God let us live'

Day 6: 'It's the luck of the draw'

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Day 9: Texas Zoo evacuates animals

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