Publisher’s Perspective

Port A Strong one year later

Terry Fitzwater/Gonzales Inquirer

It is something I had been thinking about ever since I first came to Texas over a year ago.

I had a vision of golden beaches and balmy waters along the Texas shoreline of the Gulf of Mexico. It was a vision of beauty and gentle summer breezes along with dazzling sunshine. I absolutely had to see it. Of course, in the back of mind I knew I would have to compare the shoreline and beaches of the Gulf of Mexico in Texas to the shoreline and beaches of the best of the Great Lakes where I grew up, the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. I was eager to compare.

But for some reason or reasons—none of them good—I still had not made the pilgrimage to the Gulf Coast.

So a few weeks ago, I decided I had to change all that. My mission: set sail for the place I heard the most about from people here in Gonzales and in New Braunfels—Port Aransas.

I talked to some friends about it, and informed them of my planned journey. Then my buddy Tyler Carter stepped forward and said “Man, Terry, that sounds great. I’d love to go do the beach in Port A. I’ll let you know if Kalen (Montgomery, Tyler’s girlfriend) thinks we can get away that weekend. She’s from there.”

“Great idea,” I responded. “Try and make that happen. I’d love to hang with you guys on the beach.”

So with that said, the die was cast. Port A for the weekend of Aug. 24 and 25. I was excited to go.

What I didn’t know before I left Gonzales, however, was that Saturday the 25th was the one year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey. After I got to Port A, I knew I was in for an education in disaster, resilience, determination and, of course, spectacular beauty.

And thanks to Tyler and Kalen, it was also one of the most epic nights of beach sitting and gazing as we watched Mother Nature at her finest.

I left early on Friday to beat the traffic at the ferry, so I got there well ahead of Tyler. As soon as I crossed and drove off of the ferry, I could see things were not like they used to be in this resort town. Windows boarded up in places. Some buildings abandoned completely. Lots of construction repairing damage from the year before.

Yet in spite of all the horror of the previous year, there were a lot more signs of progress. Of rebuilding. Of a community coming together to rebuild and restore its soul once again. Port A Strong.

It wasn’t just a slogan, it was a way of life and a motivation in almost everyone I talked to. From Virginia’s on the Bay to the Flats to Bernies to Fisherman’s Wharf—everyone had the same determination that Port A was coming back and would be better and stronger than it was before. Sitting in some of the restaurants, I heard story after story from locals about what they had been through, what they had overcome, and how optimistic they were about the future.

It was an inspiring story, and I was proud just to be among these hearty souls and survivors. It was the best of the American spirit, no, the best of the Texas spirit that drove these people and motivated them to never even think of quitting or giving up.

I was touched and moved by their spirit.

So later, around 8 p.m., I got the call that Tyler and Kalen had arrived and were setting up their camper on the beach. I picked up my pass, drove to the beach, and then pulled up alongside their site to spend the night.

After hearing so much about the horror of the hurricane that roared through Port A exactly one year before, I was completely discombobulated by the night we experienced last Friday.

Instead of the savagery of Mother Nature at her most furious, we had the night of a lifetime. Perfectly clear skies with almost a full moon shining off the Gulf of Mexico. The stars were bright deep in the heart of Texas that night, and you could see three planets glowing in the night sky. A mellow breeze rolled off the water, and we sat up talking to the early hours of the morning. We were parked just 15 feet from the waterline, where the crash of waves provided a calm sense of mellowness to the stillness of the night.

It was one of the coolest nights I’ve ever spent on a beach, and I have never camped as close to the water as we were on this night. And I’m grateful I got to spend it with Kalen and Tyler.

But at the end of the evening, I couldn’t help but think of the irony and the dichotomy of the weather from one year to the next. From Hurricane Harvey and its horror, to Port A strong and the best of Mother Nature.

God, I love this state.