Teacher tries to find hope after Texas flooding

Rebecca Derharoutian

In the midst of death and flooding that left nothing but ruin, a teacher new to the Shenandoah County Public Schools system has found support in the schools.

Rebecca Derharoutian is a special education teacher at W.W. Robinson and Central High School. She transferred on July 28 to Virginia, leaving her home in Beaumont, Texas. She got the job in Virginia at the last minute, packing a couple of bags of clothes anticipating coming back to pack up the rest and sell her home.

Hurricane Harvey beat her there.

“It’s gut wrenching,” said Derhoutian, who is still in Beaumont.  “Pictures and family heirlooms are tossed by the roadside. People’s lives and memories reduced to rubbish. Everyone down here is hurting; they’re struggling to cope with all the pain and loss.”

There’s a lot of confusion about to whom to turn for assistance and what is required for home demolition or rebuilding, she said, adding that the community is working hard to disseminate any information and help each other, but temporary housing is almost impossible to find; many people no longer have transportation because their cars were flooded.

The Beaumont, Texas home of Shenandoah County teacher Rebecca Derharoutian was flooded after Hurricane Harvey came ashore last month. Courtesy photo

They are in limbo, she said, while waiting for the Federal Emergency Management Agency or an insurance company to respond.

“People are hopeful and ready to begin again…it’s just overwhelming and nearly impossible to know where to start,” Derharoutian said.

The hurricane decimated communities as it made landfall late in the evening on Aug. 25.

Beaumont, a city of 118,000 east of Houston, was one of the harder hit municipalities.

Everything was submerged. The water stayed over the roof of her home for a week, Derharoutian said.

The home she anticipated having time to sell will now have to be bulldozed. She still holds a mortgage on it and, while she has homeowner’s insurance (including for wind) Derharoutian does not have flood insurance.

Derharoutian said that when the hurricane hit she drove all night to get to her mom, who was still in Beaumont. Using a boat she was able to get her out of her house. They then checked on a friend who suffers from Lou Gehrig’s disease.

“The water was up to his roof. We were able to get him out,” she said

Two of her friends, she said, died.

Word quickly spread in Shenandoah County of Derharoutian’s plight.

“She did not want anything for herself but she contacted friends in Texas and found out what their immediate needs were,” said Melinda Walters, a Biomedical Academy teacher at Central High School.

Students in the biomed, special education and ag leadership classes at the high school started collecting water, insect repellent, hygiene items, and cleaning supplies such as buckets, bleach and sponges, gloves and masks to send to Texas.

Anyone wanting to help those in Texas can drop off donations at the front office of Central High School. Items, bags and boxes need to be marked that they are for hurricane relief efforts, Walter said.

Organizers are hoping someone can help them deliver the items.

Administrators have allowed Derharoutian the time she needed to deal with the aftermath.

“The Shenandoah District is wonderful. I have never seen anything like it. They are very supportive,” Derharoutian said.