There’s something about the East Dallas community that lures us into the bubble life.
For me, the primary reason is self-preservation. This side of town provides a social and emotional support system that ironically calms and energizes me at the same time. Much of what I want and need is right outside my door, whether it’s grocery shopping at Kroger, walking and biking around White Rock Lake, picking up the perfect gift at Talulah & HESS, eating at Rapscallion, playing tennis at Samuell Grand — the list is endless and blissful.
When I relay my love for my neighborhood to those outside my bubble, I receive a familiar reply: “I’d love to live in the M-Streets, Lakewood, Lower Greenville area.” It fills me with pride. Except a few months ago, when sitting blindly in my lovely bubble made me feel ashamed.
Late in the evening on Oct. 20, swaths of northwest and northern Dallas, Lake Highlands and all the way to Sachse were devastated by a series of tornadoes. They started near Love Field and bounced eastward, leaving a horrific path of destruction.
Like many around the city, I was watching the Cowboys game while being interrupted by alerts on my phone indicating there was first severe weather, then a tornado watch and finally a tornado warning. It took NBC Channel 5 and its chief meteorologist, Rick Mitchell, an inordinate amount of time to interrupt the game to warn us all, but it was obvious from the sirens that it was serious.
My parents live just north of the Park Cities, and I called and begged them to go into the stairwell of their condo. I hung up the phone and told my kids to get into the closet under the stairs. No one listened to me or did what I asked. My kids argued that the sirens meant it was a “tornado watch,” that is, conditions ripe for a tornado. My parents simply said, “Oh, we think we’ll be fine.”
My children were clearly wrong about the tornado “watch” versus “warning.” That’s seriously a huge parenting fail. But it turned out that mom and dad were right. We were all fine.
After confirming that our nephew, who lives in North Dallas, lost power but was otherwise unscathed, I went to bed.
I woke up Monday to my wedding anniversary. I then scanned the morning news on my BBC app and was relieved that no deaths or serious injuries had been reported. Unlike the aftermath of the June 2019 storm, we had power. When I looked outside, there were no downed trees. It appeared that everyone and everything was fine.
I drove that morning to my office at 9400 N. Central Expressway, the Dallas ISD headquarters. I’d started a new job as director of the Dallas Education Foundation only weeks before. I was new enough that I didn’t realize traffic on 75 was excessively heavy, and the lack of activity inside the building was ominous. With almost no interruptions, I was incredibly productive.
It wasn’t until late afternoon, after Superintendent Michael Hinojosa’s press conference, that I understood the extent of the damage.
It turned out that not everyone was fine. There is a good-sized ribbon of our city where lives are forever changed because of nature’s wrath. We have families who lost their homes and kids who lost their schools. My heart hurts every time I speak to teachers and principals or visit Walnut Hill Elementary, which was moved to Tom Field, and Thomas Jefferson, which was moved to Edison. Many are still emotional as they stay strong for their students, their families and our city.
After communicating with a number of friends that Monday night after the storms, it was apparent, anecdotally at least, that I wasn’t the only one who suffered from East Dallas myopia. We heard that there weren’t any deaths or serious injuries and made the assumption that everything was fine.
My East Dallas bubble keeps me sane, but it was a curse that day. I’m annoyed at my ignorance and embarrassed that instead of checking on those in the tornadoes’ path, I posted a Facebook quip about my husband being out of town on our anniversary.
I was reminded that week of the hazards of making assumptions based on limited data points and what results from choosing to be insulated. My East Dallas bubble offers bliss, but I have resolutely burst it and committed to more trips outside my comfort zone. My neighbors are not just in East Dallas. They’re all over this city.
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