'Our life was here': Meyerland residents who stayed to rebuild after Harvey find hope 5 years later

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Tuesday, August 30, 2022
Meyerland residents find hope 5 years after Hurricane Harvey
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Eyewitness News captured the iconic images of people near the Meyerland area being lifted by rescue helicopters five years ago. Since then, people living there have gained hope after disaster.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Ellen and Stephen Leventhal were among the countless Meyerland residents who evacuated their homes as Hurricane Harvey flooded southeast Texas in August of 2017.

"For me it feels sometimes like yesterday and other times like a long, long time ago," Ellen told ABC13.

The Leventhals left their home before the storm hit. When they came back days later, on their wedding anniversary, the damage was worse than they expected.

"The washing machine went from the laundry room into the family room," Stephen said. "We had put stuff on the dining room table which was 3 feet high, but we had 4 feet of water."

After putting their property on the market, they changed their minds. They decided to rebuild because Meyerland was their home.

"Our life was here," Stephen said.

Ellen, a lifelong educator and writer, penned a children's book, titled "A Flood of Kindness," hoping its message of kindness offered a lifeline to children struggling in the aftermath of the flood.

"It was hard for adults. Imagine what it was like for a child," she said. "I wanted to make it hopeful, and it is basically a very hopeful book."

Five years later, they love their new home. It is elevated and two stories high. They no longer fear the rain as they once did. Neither does Amanda Sorena. She and her family also stayed to rebuild their existing home.

"We had tons of volunteers luckily," Sorena said. "From the neighborhood, from our schools, from our church, who came and helped us rip out all the walls, take out all of the furniture, do all the laundry. We had laundry all over Houston."

Among those people was a man Sorena's family would come to know as more than a volunteer when he made a connection with her sister, Kaitlin.

"I introduced her to a young man and his father, who had been working on tearing out our bedroom all day long. She met Matthew and the rest is kind of history," Sorena said.

Matthew's last name is Truelove, and true love it was. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Kaitlin and Matthew married in Sorena's backyard. They're expecting the birth of their first child in November.

Reflecting on five years since Harvey, Sorena understands they gained more than a new family member from the flood. Like others, they gained perspective.

"We know how to do hard things together and our kids know that too," she said. "I already knew that Meyerland was a strong community. We had seen it through the Memorial Day flood and the Tax Day flood. I already knew that our schools and our neighbors were important to us, and that's one of the reasons that we stayed."

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