We’re devoting one chapter of “Forgotten” to telling the story of what happened on the Bolivar Peninsula. I think a lot of people dismissed the damage in Crystal Beach, Gilchrist and the other peninsula communities because so many of the homes lost belonged to wealthy people who rented them to visitors. If more of the homes obliterated by Hurricane Ike belonged to full-time residents, I think the peninsula would have gotten much more sympathy, and therefore help.
Although around 17,000 Galveston families came home to some kind of flood damage, relatively few came home to absolutely nothing. Most islanders managed to salvage something from their soggy homes. But Ike left very few pieces for peninsula residents to put back together. Renee Brawner, then a science teacher at Crenshaw Middle School, and her husband Brian, a charter fishing boat captain, found nothing but a concrete slab when they returned to their Crystal Beach home two weeks after the storm. The only thing they ever found was a fishing pole. The loss devastated the couple, who planned to live in their second row beach house for the rest of their lives.
During an interview in November, Renee told me Ike took much more than her home. The storm destroyed her community, displaced her students and scattered her friends. Ike left the Brawners, and other full-time peninsula residents, without a place to call home.
“We don’t really know what the future holds for us,” she said. “Ike almost made us feel like we don’t belong anywhere.”