1. It’s Thursday, August 31, 2017.
2. It’s the 20th anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in an automobile crash in Paris.
3. Quick! Think of a movie about each of the nation’s five largest cities: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia.
It’s hard not to think of 100 for New York – I have the “Dog Day Afternoon” DVD on my desk. I just showed “La La Land” to my Mom. There’s the “The Sting” and “The Untouchables” from Chicago and, of course, “Rocky” from Philadelphia.
But Houston’s hard. The first thing that came to my mind was “Local Hero,” an early 80s film that has scenes in Houston but takes place mostly in Scotland.
When I looked it up, there was “Terms of Endearment,” “Apollo 13” and “Rollerball,” which was set in a futuristic Houston but was filmed in Germany.
The point is that Houston, unlike other mega American cities, doesn’t resonate quite the same way as others. It is not glamorous or touristy. No one impresses you when they say they spent a week in Houston – it sounds more like a sentence than a brag.
Because there’s no emotional attachment to Houston, it’s easy to dismiss it. Yeah, it’s a big city – there are 2 million people within its limits, not counting the folks in its suburbs. But it’s not one that inspires awe – in its own state, it pales in recognition to Dallas, Austin and maybe even San Antonio.
4. That’s gonna change. Thanks to an almost unimaginable volume of water.
It’s hard to imagine that Houston won’t be under water for weeks, maybe months. And there will be more misery as the death toll climbs and people tried to rebuild their lives.
So Houston is going to get its reputation, its moment of note. I don’t think it’s the one folks down there – who, as everyone else, love their home – seek.
And while a lot of it is going to be depressingly awful, there is something else that Houston might be known for.
Having a big heart.
It seems as though you can’t go more than 30 seconds on social media without seeing a video of people in the area doing what they can to help those in even more dire need.
I just watched this one on The Washington Post site. How can you help but admire people like these, wading though disgusting brown water – one guy puts his head in it! – to desperately put out a fire when it’s just as easy to let it burn and get everybody out of there.
I never thought much about Houston. It’s not a place I’ve ever wanted to visit or from which I even know anybody. At most, I would want to check off Minute Maid Park as a place I saw a ballgame.
The image of the floodwaters won’t make the city any more appealing. But the image of the people, extending themselves to help their neighbors and friends in a time of need will make me rethink Houstonians.
And if the flooding is cause for despair, I hope the fact that their fellow Americans – from the elitists in Brooklyn to the rancher in Montana – now see them as men and women of character and compassion will ease some of that pain.
If you’re from Houston, you have a lot to be proud of. And the rest of us now know it.