The 1900 Storm shaped Galveston’s attitude toward storms, for better and for worse. Hurricane Ike only strengthened those responses.
After surviving and eventually recovering from what is still the deadliest natural disaster in American history, Galvestonians felt a sort of invincibility to hurricanes. If the great, unnamed storm couldn’t destroy the island, nothing could. Islanders compared every storm to the one that almost obliterated the city. Anything less than that just wouldn’t be feared. After 100 years of braving lesser storms, Galvestonians started to greet forecasted threats with bravado and complacency.
Although that inflated self-assurance proved dangerous as Ike spun to life in 2008, it also gave islanders the strength they needed to start to rebuild. The island survived almost total destruction and their forefathers refused to abandon their shattered city. How could present-day islanders do anything less?
In Chapter Four, we draw comparisons between the 1900 Storm and Hurricane Ike and show how the two very similar storms prompted very similar responses from their victims. In preparation for writing this chapter, Rhiannon spent hours in the Rosenberg Library researching accounts of the 1900 Storm. One of my favorite quotes comes from William Mercer Harris, who was then the pastor of First Baptist Church. In his account of the storm, Harris included this description of the Gulf of Mexico:
“It was a sort of infinite monster, tossing its million heads and frothing at its million mouths as it hungered to devour the city. I stood there and heard the monster’s growl – his cry for blood – and looked into the black terror of his murderous frown.”