The devastation in Houston caused by Harvey hit very close to home for Cottage Grove’s Sheletta Brundidge.
A native of Houston, Brundidge was there for about 24 hours last week. She was supposed to deliver the eulogy for her grandmother Mary Smith, 77, who died unexpectedly. Smith was a regular when Brundidge was the sidekick on myTalk 107.1 FM’s now-defunct “Kevyn Burger Show.” “She called in to interpret listeners’ dreams and the phone lines would always blow up,” said my friend Brundidge, who is a comedian.
Q: Who flies to Houston when a hurricane is predicted?
A: I’m the oldest grandchild and my mother is the oldest child. I was there to help my grieving mother get everything in order. We made the funeral program, got them printed, met with the funeral home and church. The funeral home was telling us it has had funerals during hurricanes. The thing that people have to understand is this: Telling somebody in Texas or Louisiana it’s going to storm is like telling somebody in Minnesota it’s going to snow. You go get your supplies, you get prepared and you hunker down. I got supplies from the store and gassed up my mother and dad’s car and got ready. When I went to the store at 8 a.m. Thursday, this was a tropical storm. When I got home, it was a Category 2 hurricane. Because I used to work at a couple of TV stations in Houston, I called my friends there. I called one station and a producer took the phone into the weather center: Does she stay until Sunday, so she can make the funeral on Saturday, or does she leave? Their words were: Leave now. I said, “But wait, this woman raised me.” They said, Do you want to be stuck here until next Thursday? The airport is going to be crowded, flights canceled because it’s going to be catastrophic. Anybody who works in TV knows that sometimes weather people get a little excited.
Q: That’s why they’re called Weather Terrorists.
A: Riiight. Love them, but baby they know how to get your complete attention when something bad is about to happen. I called my friends at a competing station and they put me on hold and I didn’t know why. They came back to give me the times of the two flights leaving Houston to get back to Minnesota that day. I said, “My family is counting on me.” They told me, There’s not going to be a funeral Saturday. They are not going to be able to get to the church. I called Shawn [her husband], who was not paying attention to weather because he was taking care of our four kids [ages 11, 5, 4 and 2]. I said, “I need you to take 10 minutes and look at the Weather Channel and call me.” He saw the size of that monster, called me right back and said, Get your butt home. I booked the 7:45 p.m. flight and went to the cemetery to pay for the plot and dropped some stuff off at the funeral home. My grandmother was a mainstay in the community, so congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee had a proclamation to be read during the service, [as did] even the mayor of Houston. I picked up [the proclamations]. I am still thinking there may be a funeral; I just won’t be there. My aunts were calling and saying, Please don’t go. Wait until Friday. I almost turned around three times, but thankfully I had my friend Fanchon, who is very levelheaded, take me to the airport and she said, You talked to two different meteorologists who told you if you stay you are going to get stuck here; your immediate family needs you more. You won’t see them at their first day of school or feed them for two weeks and Shawn can’t be off work [for that long]. When I was sitting on that plane, which was packed, that pilot said: Congratulations, you’re on one of the last flights to make it out before the storm.
Q: The funeral had to be postponed?
A: Because what happened was exactly what they told me would.
Q: Your parents are safe?
A: Right now. Folks are frantic. They have supplies for four or five days, not two weeks.
Q: Why is Gov. Greg Abbott doing a fashion show for media in those nice shirts with his name and title?
A: You don’t know anything about Texas folk. We are big on titles. He’s got to let everybody know he’s the governor. Everybody who’s got a title in Texas, believe you me it’s on their shirt somewhere.
C.J. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on Fox 9’s “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.