A DAY WE REMEMBER
by Alexandria O'Brien
On September 8th 123 years ago, a terrible storm wreaked havoc on Galveston Island. The city was completely devastated, homes and large buildings made to pieces, and well over 10,000 lives lost. Remembered as the Great Storm of 1900, this tragic event remains the deadliest to take place in the United States to date.
I am not a native Galvestonian, but of course I was taught about the Great Storm in grade school. I would say that my knowledge was quite limited before I came to the Galveston County Museum, mostly consisting of straight facts you can find online. Here I have gained such a deeper understanding of the destruction that took place by participating in discussions with the locals, reading the difficult stories, and actually seeing the recovered belongings of those who had died. I cannot imagine devastation, panic, and suffering that took place when I look at Galveston today.
That is not to say the day is forgotten amongst this new city. No, for many the day is held high in their mind and close to their heart as they take time to talk often, honor those passed, and celebrate the resiliency of the living. Discussion of this tragedy was simply not done following the Great Storm - understandably. There was an obvious state of shock one entered when taking in the pure destruction that was now the Galveston Island. With that there was also despair, stress, mourning, and hopelessness. People did everything they could to move forward one minute at a time - and in silence.
I am thankful that discussions of the Great Storm are taking place now, that people like myself are being educated of the Island's history and are given the opportunity to pay respect to the city and its people. I actually had the great privilege last month to join Gin with Spooky Galveston on her historical 1900 Storm Tour. The tour begins here at the Galveston County Museum before venturing out into the Galveston Strand for significant site-seeing. Gin graciously allowed me a brief interview following, which I've transcribed some of below to share with you all.
Gin has been giving 1900 Storm Tours since 2017 and has partnered with the Galveston County Museum due to it's impressive Storm Exhibit (pictured below).
She feels there is a great importance of relaying stories of the Great Storm to the residents and visitors of Galveston, because "we would not have the city we do without the changes that were made following the storm." Gin continues to research by visiting libraries, cemeteries, monuments and memorials; she reads books, watches documentaries, and follows the trail of artifacts and attractions around the nation; and most importantly, she braves the stigma of talking on this once-taboo topic, and speaks to share and find truth.
The 1900 Storm Tour
After listening to her brief introduction, which includes a few stories of the surrounding artifacts the group was given some time to take a closer look at the museum exhibit. A story that touched my heart was of Mrs. William Nelson and her son Frank. While being rescued by neighbors, Mrs. Nelson was struck with debris and lost hold of Frank. Miraculously, he was found and kept by another neighbor, and reunited with his mother who had also survived. I had my own son with me that day, and held him much closer praying I should get so lucky if I ever encountered such misfortune as that.
Our group took to the Galveston Strand then, our first stop being to admire Mary, Star of the Sea and the golden crown atop her head. Known as "The Protectress" of Galveston, Mary acts a beacon of hope to the Galveston people during the stressful times of hurricane season. As a religious person myself, I have solace in Mary for almost 25 years. To realize that so many others are looking to her for safety and comfort as well fills me with immense joy.
Now, I have no intention of spoiling this incredible journey through time with you reader - I HIGHLY recommend you reserve a date and take this tour yourself. If you absolutely cannot wait, please come by the Galveston County Museum and explore our 1900 Storm exhibit first. It is a can't-miss attraction in Galveston, capturing many stories and details of the Storm that you may not know.
The Galveston County Museum is located inside of the County Courthouse and open on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10AM to 4PM. Admission and parking is completely free. You may also visit the GCM website here to schedule a private tour of the museum on Tuesday or Thursday. The1900 Storm Tours are typically offered on Thursdays at 2PM (meet at Galveston County Museum), but you will need to visit Spooky Galveston
to purchase your tickets.
A special thank you to Gin for providing me this incredible tour, by doing a wonderful job researching and conveying the truth of the tragedy. Although more than a century has passed, thanks to these shared stories, September 8, 1900 is a day we remember.
Gin and her tour group