In the midst of the effort to help the hundreds of thousands of people affected by Hurricane Katrina, people in Galveston and around the world will pause tomorrow to remember those who died in a similar disaster more than a century ago — the Great Hurricane of 1900.
Between 6,000 and 8,000 people died in Galveston and on the upper Texas coast in the great storm of 1900. That unnamed storm destroyed Galveston, just as Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of New Orleans. Galveston historian Linda McDonald says she can’t watch the news coming out of Louisiana without thinking about that, because the stories are so similar.
McDonald says she hopes New Orleans will learn from this experience and do whatever is necessary to keep disasters of this magnitude from happening again — the way Galveston did after the 1900 storm — when it finally raised the city’s elevation and built the sea wall. Destruction of the Port of Galveston inspired Houston leaders to build up the Port of Houston, which made Houston the dominant center of trade and commerce in Texas.
Tomorrow on the anniversary of the storm, Sisters of Charity nuns around the world will remember their brave sisters at Saint Mary’s Orphanage in Galveston, who died along with nearly a hundred children in their care. McDonald says they died singing an old French song called Queen of the Waves, and that’s how they will always be remembered.