Gabriela Igloria: OK, can you start by telling me your names, and how old you are?

Wilmina Augustin: Wilmina Augustin, and I am 48 years old.

GI: And how about you?

Sergine Mombrun: And I’m Sergine Mombrun, I’m 21 years old.

GI: And how long have you lived in Norfolk?

WA: Um… [tries to recall] hmm, 16 years now.

SM: Right, yeah… 16 years, which is 10—

GI: And what neighborhood or area of Norfolk do you live in right now?

WA: Oh, right now, we reside in the Ward’s Corner area.

SM: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

GI: And have you lived in any other areas of Norfolk?

WA: Yes, I use to live in the Broad Creek area that is, I will say upper Princess Anne.

GI: And is there a body of water close to where you live right now?

WA: Yes—

SM: Yeah, the river is about 10 minutes down the street—

GI: Uh-huh.

WA: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

SM: —if you go down the Granby Street Bridge and the Willow Wood Bridge.

GI: Is that Lafayette River?

SM: Yes.

WA: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

SM: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

GI: And then, if you own a home, do you have flood insurance?

WA: No, I own a home, but I do not have flood insurance.

GI: Do you think that having flood insurance would benefit you?

WA: Yeah, definitely in that… do I need to elaborate?

GI: Yeah, yeah.

WA: OK, yeah, so definitely, I think that it will help in that, when you consider when you have a home insurance for example, they’re telling you that there are certain things that are not covered. Under the home insurance based on the area where I live, you will think that they select which area to be covered by flood insurance because I remember the time I was looking for a house, there is a particular house that I saw that I liked, but because the flood insurance was so expensive, I was like, “No, I’m not going to add anything more than what I already will have to cover.” So, that will make the mortgage unaffordable.

So, we don’t have it where we live now, but I feel like it will be necessary given the fact that home insurance do not cover everything, but sometimes, you cannot predict what’s going to happen, especially if you taking like a full week of rain, especially the draining in our area as well, so all of that…

GI: So, where do you think you’ve witnessed the worst flooding in Norfolk—?

WA: [Laughs]

GI: —in the time you’ve lived here? [Laughs]

SM: I got a list.

GI: [Laughs]

SM: I think definitely by the Chrysler and the Downtown area, anywhere directly on the water is like really, really bad. But I think especially kind of like by… sometimes by Ghent, too, it’s just like the drainage is not good. I was driving the other day, and it was… actually, it had rained for like maybe a day? I think it was more like a day or two, and the two of them needed to go to work, so I was dropping them off, and the street was just completely flooded, and it’s so crazy because we were just watching people going through, and just like, I knew I can’t do that—

GI: Oh, yeah.

SM: —so, I just had to turn.

There’s also been—Mommy, where was that place—it was by the…this store, I think it was—

WA: Yeah—

SM: —like a…

WA: —there were so many places, for example if you take Tidewater Drive, for example, I will say between Tidewater Drive and Church Street, if I’m not—

SM: Yeah, for sure.

WA: —mistaken? Whoa, this area right there, I remember the first time that I experience actually a flood here, at that time, we were living upper… by this… and like I was telling you earlier…

GI: Mm-hmm…

WA: —and we were coming on I think Church Street and Tidewater Drive and...Yeah, and then, it started to rain. At that time, I own a Toyota, and it was flooding so badly, and the water was so violent, I didn’t know what to do, I thought that the water was eventually going to carry the car away, so—

GI: Oh, yeah, yeah.

WA: —at that time, I was with Sergine, and we just step out of the car and in… [laughs]

GI: [Laughs, too]

SM: We had to leave.

WA: We left the car, and we ran…

GI: Oh, gosh!

WA: I mean, that wasn’t the smartest decision, but—

GI: Right.

WA: —we didn’t know what to do, so we just ran.

GI: Did you recover the car after that or…?

WA: Yes after that it took us a couple days, the car was still left on the street because it was totally immersed in the water, so we had to take a couple days to be able to even start the engine again, and then, to start cleaning. So, that is one place we have experience that.

And then, there is also… I don’t know if you have experience that given that you live in this area, that is on Northampton Boulevard, and I would say—you see where D’Egg is at?

GI: Yeah, yeah.

WA: —by the library?

GI: MM-hmm.

SM: Oh, yeah.

WA: Yeah, that area also, I’ve experienced flood there, when I’m going to school. And again, when I’m going to work, I take that area, and it’s flooding so my other way, that will be to go by… what is that street?

That’s not Granby Street, Church Street and oh, la, la, what is there? Church Street and where there’s the big apartment pretty much by the water. So, that place, you don’t even need rain for it to flood sometimes.

SM: Yes.

WA: Yeah, so, yeah…

GI: So, when you think of the phrase, flood resilience, what do you think about?

WA: So, now, are we talking about zoning, or…?

GI: It could be zoning—

WA: —or people?

GI: —it could be both, systemic and community-based.

WA: I think that is a way of… you know how sometimes, people use those stereotype, so you can accept certain things or make them more acceptable because if you don’t, then you weak?

GI: Mm.

WA: [Laughs] You see what I mean? Like for example, when we always talking… not we, but sometimes, we do that, too, as people like, “Yeah, I’m a strong black woman.”

GI: Oh, yeah, yeah…

WA: —or “You know, I’m resilient.” Like, “OK, I can take the pain.”

GI: Right.

WA: But—

GI: You shouldn’t have to.

WA: I shouldn’t have to—

GI: Yeah.

WA: —you know? [Laughs]

SM: Yeah, yeah.

WA: So, I think in a way, yeah, we can build flood resilient communities in that you take precautionary measures, make… I wouldn’t even say that making health—I mean, not health insurance—making flood insurance more affordable because even if it’s affordable, does not mean the area is going to be resilient. I think it’s more taking care of, for example, the drainage in those areas because a lot of times, you would at the last minute, and then, you’ll say, “Oh, you know, it’s gonna be flood season, y’all, it’s gonna rain.” Because what I’ve experienced at my house for example, because we have trees and then, if the roots, they get in the drainage of the house, sometimes the house clog back.

So, no wonder if we live in areas where we still have those trees, but we never take time to clean those areas and then, you have some areas where the city is not cleaning as much as they should, so you have a bunch of garbage that will go through those drainage. Of course, people are not being responsible about it, but also, we not taking precautionary measures to avoid these type of things.

So, in a way, I believe yes, we can take precautionary measures to build flood resiliency when it rains, but asking me as a person to be flood resilient, how? You’re just asking me to have more money [laughs]—

SM: [Laughs, too]

WA: —so, I can put right back in the system, so when something happen—so, I have COVID: “Oh, I’m flood resilient. I have COVID…” so meaning that OK, now, it’s normal for me to be flooded because I have COVID… it’s not supposed to be like that.

*Contextual note: Wilmina did not have COVID at the time of this interview and was just using this as a hypothetical example.

GI: Right.

WA: You see what I mean?

GI: Yeah, yeah. [To Sergine] Do you have anything else to add?

SM: I think, like because—Mom, what you were talking about before, that time when we got stuck in the car, it was like—I think that was just like a moment of community because everybody just tried to help everybody out, cuz in that moment, I remember we were super freaked out and super nervous, but we weren’t the only people that were out there that day, and so, like people getting stuck in their car, were telling people like, “Turn around.”

Like everybody was trying to help each other out, and I think we had been in like in a store or something, so we just stayed in the store, and we were talking to the—

WA: We were at the—

SM: What’s the name of that store again?

WA: The Burger King, no that was the—

SM: No!

WA: —Burger King across the street because the Burger King was on a higher level.

SM: Right.

WA: Yeah.

SM: Yeah, yeah, yeah. We moved to somewhere else, but yeah—

WA: Yeah.

SM: —basically the point I’m getting at is that even in situations where maybe you don’t have the kind of financial means to be flood resilient, I think as far community goes, everyone should strive to do their best, like nobody wants to lose their car, nobody wants to have their home be messed up or whatever, so it’s like a way that the community comes together in those types of times is like really… I think that’s what it is, and it is how I felt, too, yeah.

GI: So, you’ve talked about having that experience in the car, but I’m wondering have you ever experienced flooding with any place you’ve lived, like in your house at all?

WA: Mm, mm-mm [negative].

SM: Um, not as—

WA: No, because usually—

SM: —bad as I see it in many places.

WA: —you give it a couple hours, and then, the water will leave, you know?

GI: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

SM: Yeah—

GI: I’m just wondering—

SM: —it’s never like a long-term issue, like you know…? Yeah.

GI: Yeah, I’m just wondering both with the car and the house, how, if it flooded again, wherever you live, how well do you think you would be able to rebuild from that?

SM: [Hisses]

WA: [Laughs] Although—

SM: I don’t know. [Laughs]

WA: That’s a tough one, let’s not even wish for something like that to happen because when you consider just like I was saying when you have insurance, when you have a home insurance, thinking that: “OK, everything is covered.” but turns out it’s not… because like I said, if your zoning was not mapped out as a flood zone, then hey, they just gonna tell you: “Well, that wasn’t covered under insurance.” so, from this point on, I’m not just wishing for any of this to ever happen because how am I gonna do it? Because even when we have something that is covered under the home insurance, you still have a ridiculous copay, a ridiculous what they call it…? [Hisses] What’s the term for it, yeah, pretty much a copay that you have to come up with before they even start telling you… because you know, everything is about the money, so yeah, I don't see, I don’t see how, yeah. That’ll be very—

SM: And also—

WA: —unfortunate experience. Were you going to add something, Sisi?

SM: No, I just don’t get that too, with the flood warning thing because I’m like, all Norfolk is under sea level, so how ideally—what’s the criteria when they choose who is and who isn’t? And then, on top of that, if you think about like… so we’re talking about from a homeowner’s perspective, but what about people who are in government assisted housing and stuff like that?

GI: Yeah, yeah…

WA: Mm-hmm…

SM: Do they have protections for their situation…? I don’t think they do. And the thing is that consistently, especially if you think about around Church Street and by the Chrysler, that kind of general area, like over there, it floods really bad, especially in those housing sections, so I don’t understand how like… like how does the local government help them? What’s the procedure for if something like that were to happen?

And I don’t think that they—do they even have that? I haven’t heard anything about that, but yeah, I just feel like obviously, I don’t know…

From a homeowner’s perspective, we have to an extent experienced [inaudible] and even then, it’s like you’re not getting to anything. But yeah, especially for people who are not—yeah, no we getting government assisted housing, like maybe living in those apartments, I don’t know what they… I don’t even know what they would do, so…

WA: But I also wanted to add when we talking about how you recover from a flood, because as we can see, you cannot really predict or scale 100% what a natural disaster is gonna do, so even psychologically, how do you deal with that? Because when you see the water coming and there is no end… OK, we may have not experienced it here, but we’re seeing on TV, how other people are affected by it, so now, even if it is not that big, you start thinking about all of that, you know what I mean? So, even psychologically, you know…

If we are really about our wellbeing, you know that you doing everything to put yourself in a position where you don’t have to worry about certain things, but yet, some things are still out of your control and how do you stay centered when something like that is happening, you know?

GI: Mm-hmm [affirmative]… So, what would you want decision makers or others in the community to maybe consider more deeply when it comes to building these plans that they have for flood resilience?

WA: Well, that will be first and foremost to be mindful because I’m pretty sure when they are planning those things, trust and believe, it’s not gonna be them and their families living there, you see what—

SM: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

WA: —I mean? So, meaning that when they are doing that, they are—my thing will be that they move in a more conscious manner that it’s going to be people living there, even if it is not your family members, even it’s not gonna be you, but it’s gonna be people living there so be conscious.

If you know that an area is at risk, simply say no. We can always do other things since like I said, it’s about the money, we can always do other things to market the city, to market the area, but if you know that definitely you making a decision now that in a year or two or three, five, 10 years that’s constantly going to create problems, you know for other people, then, how about we having the courage to decline certain things when you know that they’re not going to work? You see…?

SM: And I also think that, like Mommy, like what you were talking about with the drainage systems and stuff like that…?

WA: Mm-hmm…

SM: I feel like honestly so much of this stuff is like preventative action is just not been taken. Like, if you know every time it rains a little bit, the street is flooding out the ones… you’re like, “Why not be like, ‘Hmm, maybe, there’s something consistent that’s going wrong here?’”

And I think that I mean, when there are certain communities, like people are just more inclined to neglect them, even if they know that there is a consistent issue there. And I feel like if there was more consciousness and also intention in seeking out the communities that need the most help, we will be able to make so much progress, cuz the thing is that it’s literally all connected.

Like, if it’s not directly impacting your community, but what if it’s impacting how you get to work? Because these areas are right next to City Hall, look like the courts and stuff like that, and I’m like, people have to get from place to place, people have jobs, and I think that it’s really selfish to be like, “Oh, I don’t live there, so it’s not my problem.” But it is your problem because it impacts everybody, and it impacts the economy of Norfolk and how we all just exist.

And I don’t know, I just feel like there’s a lack of care, like community and I think it’s also because sometimes, people don’t want to join in community with other people, and it’s easier to just kinda not be mindful because it’s like, “Well, if it doesn’t impact me, then I can just you know—it’s like easier to get through my day.” But that’s really selfish. That doesn’t help anybody.

GI: So, what do you—

SM: Yeah.

GI: —know about the plans that the city has to address flooding and what may be some of your thoughts on those…?

SM: [Takes a bit] To be honest, I don’t know nothing about that.

GI: [Laughs]

SM: I don’t even know if they were doing anything with that, and that’s actually really sad, I mean, on the one hand like… I don’t know. I don’t know how the city… like how are they disseminating this information? I feel like they should be—like that’s something that should be actively… [takes a bit] like, talk to them, I think? Don’t they have access to send out local messages and stuff like that? And I feel like especially if we’re talking about impacted communities, it might just be easier to just send somebody a little text and be like, “Hey, we’re having a city hall on this, and we would like to hear your thoughts.” And likely, because like I said, I don’t think they’re considering a lot of the communities that are impacted the most, I think that if we…

And then again, those people are working, right? No one… you know what I’m saying…? You’re not going to be checking your phone for policy and stuff like that, a lot of the times, so I think there needs to be some kind of way to engage more with the people because I honestly, I didn’t even know that they had flood plans.

GI: [To Wilmina] How about you?

WA: Well, for me, I learn about how bad it was here that is when I was… I was in college, and I was taking a class on geology and that’s how, that’s the only way that I learn of some high-risk area in Norfolk. When you take the tides for example, they are telling you, nobody should even live there because of the way that it is, but yet, you have such a big thing there. So, my thoughts on that, [takes a bit] I don’t think it’s not that they don’t put the information out there, even though, I’ve not verified what I’m saying, but I feel like it’s just the way that the city or the people in politics, how they operate. They put just enough to cover themselves, so you won’t say you didn’t know, you understand what I mean?

GI: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

WA: But I think for something like that that is so critical, it should be more regularized, you see what I mean? For example, like everywhere I go, that’s in my face, especially around your working season, you know around this month of May, June, I mean, April, May, June, where it’s raining the most.

GI: Right now…

WA: You see—yeah…

SM: Now if we could leave…

WA: You see like you know, that should be: “Hey, if you’re experiencing this, this is what you do, if you live in this area, this is…” you know the same way that they’re sending me random… for example, Norfolk Public School is doing an amazing job flooding you with text messages, phone calls about: “Hey, if you have a three-year-old and older, they need to be in kindergarten…” So, sometimes, I get tired of these texts. But again, the thing about it, am I getting those texts because my children were already in the system? You see what I mean?

GI: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

WA: So, you calling me because my children have been in the system for the past 17, 18, years? Now, one is in college and another one is staying here, right, and then, I’m a teacher, so my number is in the system. So, I will consistently get those messages that I don’t need. It turns out there might be someone having their three-year-old at home that need the message, but they’re not getting it.

GI: Right.

WA: But now, if you ask them: “OK, but have you told the community?” “Yeah, we sending messages out all the times.” But you’re probably sending it to the wrong people, or you not using the proper route to reach the people, you see?

SM: Yeah.

WA: So, that is where we have to be very careful, and I say careful because they’re being careful, you see?

SM: Mm-hmm [affirmative], yeah.

WA: They gonna tell you: “Oh, yeah, I send the information out.” And you’re like, “When? I never received it.” “Yeah, some people did.” If you ask me, yeah, I did, but do I need it? No. Is it relevant to me? No, because clearly, I don’t have small children, you see what I mean?

SM: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

WA: So, I think they—

SM: You know it’s interesting though…

WA: Mm-hmm…

SM: I feel like I remember in elementary school, them doing a lot more talking to us about flooding and how to prepare for those important situations, like the hurricane season and stuff like that. And I don’t know why that stopped. I just feel like I’ve been thinking regularly, and I think like in maybe, second grade, third grade or something like that, they had people come in, and they were like, “We are under sea level, there’s a high risk of flooding in this area, if something is gonna happen, here’s what you need to be prepared for. You need to have a plan for it.” These types of natural disaster scenarios…

And I mean, I don’t really, I don’t feel like that’s a thing as much anymore? And I feel like it should be because a lot of the time, like what you’re talking about, if you’re a parent and you’re constantly at work and you’re just trying to get food on your table, and you’re struggling, especially with the way the economy itself right now, people are not gonna be too—like I don’t think that that’s like a front of the mind kind of concern for a lot of people, so if you can get your kids to kind of be concerned about it, then it’s like, “Oh, Mom, by the way, when I was at school, today, they told me about this…” then the parent have to be… how to plan for this type of scenario…

GI: Yeah, yeah.

SM: And I don’t know, I feel like a lot of times, it’s like many of those things where people think that children are not conscious of these things, like they are here, and they’re paying attention just like everybody else, so if there is some sort of plan, I feel like that will be really good to integrate into that. It’s like bringing that into schools and having your children know like, “What should we do in these kinds of situations?” because did we really have one tornado throughout this year, Mom?

GI: Oh, wow!

WA: Mm… [laughs], yeah, yes.

SM: Because I remember we use to do them all the time, you were always like, you were like, “Get up, go through here.”

WA: Every month, yeah.

SM: Like, “Tuck, no through, tuck and roll, put your…” you know what I’m saying?

WA: Yeah.

SM: We were prepared for everything and that’s just not a thing anymore and I just… I don’t—

WA: It’s true.

SM: —that’s not—yeah…

WA: It is true—

SM: So—

WA: —because—

SM: —they need to work on that.

WA: Just to back what Sisi is saying, I remember base on that, she was the one actually, who sat me one day and said, “Mom, if there is an emergency, where should we meet? You know, if something happened, and we have to-”

GI: Right.

WA: “-escape the house, what is the plan, where should we meet if something happen?” So, you see things that sometimes, as a mom, you too busy thinking about… but the kid is concerned about it, you see what I mean?

GI: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

WA: So, I think that’s a good point—

GI: Yeah.

WA: —that you have there, Sisi.

GI: Yeah.

SM: Thanks, Ma. Thank you.

GI: So, when you moved here, how did you learn how to prepare for the floods that we have in the city?

WA: I just stumble on it. [Laughs]

GI: [Laughs, too]

SM: Yeah, that was for real.

WA: Because I’m pretty sure if I know that it’s gonna rain or flood, depending on where I’m going, I will make decision not to go, the same way like, OK, now, in this weather, I’m not going to the beach at 12:00, 1:00 o’clock. I’m going in the early morning or at night because I know what to expect. So, I just stumbled on it, and then, when you stumble on it, you like, “Oops, OK, when it rain, I’m not supposed to go this area or that area.” But yeah, that’s it.

GI: Yeah. And so, what other concerns do you have regarding flood protections that we might have in the future?

WA: [Takes a bit] Well, flood protection, hmm… I think that it can be done but I’m wondering if we didn’t go too far in building a bunch of stuff where people were not supposed to be living in the first place…?

SM: Hello—

WA: —you know?

SM: —government…

WA: That’s one thing, but also, when you take for example insurances out there, see, the first thing that pop for me, before I go into the technicalities that is, what it cost, everything has a cost, and they write them in a way also you thought that you were covered for something, until you realize you’re not covered. You see what I mean? Because they just know how to sell you this thing. But flood protection, now, this is something that as we’re doing this, I’m like, “OK, maybe it’s something that I should think about because it will be hard to rebuild if something happen, if anything happen that my home insurance does not cover…” And in the meantime, natural disasters they never announce their magnitude, you know…?

So, how do I deal with that? That’s one thing. But most importantly, I don’t see how again, I might have some grand big ideas until they become political, you see what I mean? If they do not profit whoever, let’s say the system in general, they just gonna be good ideas, you see?

SM: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

WA: But that will be for the people making decision for us to actually be a little bit more aggressive about the impact that it’s having on their constituents, because for them, they gonna map out where they live, you see?

GI: Mm-hmm [affirmative]…

WA: But we’ll be doing being left by ourselves to deal with stuff, so yeah, how do you prepare yourself?

GI: Yeah, yeah. And so, you’re still raising one child at home-

WA: Yeah.

GI: —for the most part—

WA: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

GI: —here in Norfolk. And so, I was wondering if you could tell me a bit about some of the concerns you have as a mother?

WA: Are we talking about my Black son?

GI: [Laughs]

WA: [Laughs, too]

SM: [Laughs, too] Yeah… No, no, no.

WA: Is that related to flood…?

GI: Yeah, yeah—

WA: —or in general?

GI: —if that can be related to flooding, just in the way that—so you’ve talked about transportation being one issue, right?

WA: Yeah. That’s a very good one, because imagine, if I’m getting up in the morning to go to work, OK, I’m in my car, I have ways to get to work, but for him going to work, he has to take a… you know, I go right, he goes left. OK, that’s one thing. You have where they’re tracking attendances, and you know how that impact all kids in general for attendance?

GI: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

WA: But Black kids in particular… I’m sorry, there is no way I can talk about my child and not see how as a Black boy—

GI: Sure, yeah.

WA: —you know, how it’s double impact, you see? I could even talk about one incident that I’ve had at work. It was raining and because of the water, we were given a two-hour delay. So, in that case, I had to take him to school, and I get to school late. That was the only day, the first and only day in the year, that we had a two-hour delay. Yet, I get written up because I came 10 minutes late. And I was still among the people that came the earliest, because it was difficult for other people to get to work on time.

But you know, as far as transportation, same thing, if I cannot get through, the buses are not gonna get through. And if they get through, students still may not be able to get through because the bus has a particular spot where they pick you up, so you walk to them… So, what if right in front of your house, it’s flooding, how do you get to the bus? So, the rest of the city can be minding their business, but you’re still stuck because we don’t have the same means of transportation, you see? So.

GI: Yeah.

SM: And I know that question was directed towards my mom, but—

GI: I’m sure—

SM: —like the other day… remember while you and Caleb went to the mall—

WA: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

SM: —right when it started, it started hailing that day…

GI: Yeah.

WA: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

SM: And that was like right when it was starting to get really bad, and my first thought is like, “Oh, my gosh how is he gonna get back home?” Because if we’re talking about safety in the mall, I really don’t think that that will be that big of an issue, like as far as he could get into an elevated area, and there’s not that many windows… So, I was like he could find somewhere that’s safe, but it was like, you’d already left, it’s about 8:00 PM already, how are you gonna get back home, and then, especially considering that, that area floods so badly…?

So, yeah, and I remember you were really freaked out that day, so yeah…

WA: Yeah.

SM: Like, no… yeah, so… And Caleb is always out, that’s the thing. He always wants to go out and like do stuff, and like you want him to be able to have that freedom, but then, it’s also these considerations of I mean, exactly—maybe sometimes, he’s not thinking about… or maybe like we think about more than him, so yeah, that could be a concern sometimes.

GI: Mm-hmm [affirmative]. I might jump around a little bit. Let’s see… so I think you’ve talked about this a bit already, but how do you envision we might work with the water rather than against it and continue to sort of adapt to its presence?

SM: Mom was really spot on with saying that a big issue is maybe that we started placing stuff and building, in structures, in places where they should not be in. And I think that that’s so true, that is across the board because so much of the concerns is profit. It’s like, “How can I make the most money?” And everybody wants a waterside apartment complex and this, that, and the third, until all of a sudden, your whole apartment lot is flooded, and you can’t get out and you can’t go anywhere. And I’ve seen that happen in those apartments right off of the Granby Street Bridge. It’s like you go over there, and the whole apartment complex is flooded.

So, I do think that a big thing we can do is just kind of be more mindful of construction, of where things are being located and teaching people how to deal with these issues because like we said, I feel like the lack of education and a lack of resources is a really big issue… Like the people who don’t have to deal with it are probably the most prepared I think…

It feels like me saying like with the Section 8 Housing and stuff like that, there, I mean, I don’t know that they have access to the resources to be prepared for that situation when it comes. And I feel like if as a community we would kind of make that a mutual knowledge thing, like get everybody on board and educated about these kind of things, even if it’s like you have to be annoying and send people away to a little training or little thing over and over again, I think that that will be really useful, because it’s gonna be a problem regardless. All of Norfolk is under sea level, like we’re gonna have that issue, but if we are more educated on it, and we have more access to the knowledge, and the resources, then I think that we’ll be a lot more prepared. And you’re still gonna be anxious and freaked out, but at least, you’ll have some sort of control over the situation, which I think is a very big problem is that like people feel like they have no control, so yeah…

GI: Can you elaborate a little bit on the specific resources that you think would be helpful?

SM: I think if… [takes a bit] I know there is community meetings, like in our neighborhood, we used to have community leaders all the time. I know Mom, you’re in like the Facebook group for the-

WA: Yeah.

SM: —for the apartment we’re in now… And when we used to live in Broad Creek, we would physically go on a meet in the community center, and I know that a lot of neighborhoods also have community centers where they come together and meet. I think if that was, especially leading up to hurricane season, flood season like that they would do like, “Hey, here’s some information…” I think that knowing who your community is, is also important. So, if you think pamphlets are gonna be the best, then do a pamphlet, if you think: “OK, let’s just do…” if there’s older people, do not give them a QR code. Give them something physical that they can take home with them. If it’s like, “OK, I need actual stories, like easy to access website…” that will just give them the information that could be useful.

I think also, like I said, having the kids be aware, I think that’s a really big point. If we could have maybe just like, we used to like—oh, my gosh, what’s that called?—like the professional development… not professional development—they would have us do the things for the kids where they have to do stuff… it’s like regulated by the state, whatever…

WA: Yeah—

SM: If we could take some—

WA: —I remember.

SM: —of that time—you know what I’m talking about, right, Mom…?

WA: Yeah, yeah.

SM: So, if we’re gonna take that time and do those kinds of things anyways, I feel like it will be really useful also to like—

WA: And also—

SM: —have that in there as well, maybe on the CANVAS site for the schools too, like if they could just have it somewhere accessible for the kids to see it…

WA: Yeah, another thing that I was also going to add, that is: don’t wait when something happen, and then, you doing the motivation after. Because when you take an organization like FEMA, for example, they have the funds, that’s why they exist, right?

SM: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

WA: But I remember the last time I heard that FEMA was doing something—I mean, don’t quote me on this—but I’m saying this is the only time that it was regularized… that was after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. And then, oh, my God, everywhere you go, they were talking about it because it was on TV. It was bad, and on TV, so other communities… and you know, everybody was feeling bad about what happen, and all of sudden feeling also insecure: “Oh, my God, what if that happen to us?” So, FEMA was doing some little community meetings in underprivileged neighborhood, but as we are saying this, yes, I might be an underprivileged person, but if I don’t live in an underprivileged area, let’s say we’re talking about common place, Tidewater and stuff like that back in the day… Now that they gentrified, you see what I mean?

GI: Yeah.

WA: So, it’s like you have these people that are still moving out in the community, but also, think about it, there are people that necessarily live in vulnerable communities that still need the information, you see? So, don’t wait when something happen, and then, you like, “OK, now let’s start telling people how to get prepared for it.” It’s already too late, you know?

SM: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

WA: Especially when you live in an area that is so vulnerable, it needs to be a constant conversation, even if I work on your nerve, I better you say that: “Oh, my God, you’re just too much.” instead of saying that you didn’t know, you know?

GI: Yeah.

SM: Cuz like you were saying about the calls from NPS [Norfolk Public Schools]? I get them all the time, and I don’t have no kid—

WA: [Laughs]

GI: [Laughs, too]

SM: —and nobody is in Pre-K, but I know that the Pre-K is starting. I know when it’s starting, and it’s like—so really putting information in people’s faces and—

WA: And the thing about it, like I was saying earlier, we get this information because our name is in the system, and you doing census, all the time.

SM: I mean, the government, yeah.

WA: You have all the information already anyway. You understand what I mean? You would make a deal with T-Mobile right now, you get everybody’s phone number. Make a deal with whoever—you know the number of scams phone calls that I’m receiving—

SM: It’s the most—

WA: —scams or text that I’m receiving a day, so you mean that individuals can do that, but you as—

SM: You as the government can’t?

WA: —the government can’t? And it turns out you the first ones because you backing them up. You know, when I say, “Hey, how do you get my number?” “Oh, Ma’am, it’s not unlawful to get your number.” OK, so if it’s not unlawful, somebody is using my phone, why is it that for good purposes, the city is not using my phone number also to send out this information? So, you see what I mean?

SM: Yeah.

WA: You cannot choose and pick what you wanna do or choose easy: “Oh, we already have these numbers, let…” No, we need to do some work because these are some serious business.

GI: Mm-hmm [affirmative]. Yeah. So, I think the last question I’ll ask is, are there any other stories or thoughts on flooding or sea level rise that you wanted to share, that maybe we haven’t touched on yet?

WA: [Takes a bit] Well, I think we talk about proper drainage, that will be something because when you consider again, education—educate the people… for example, where I live, there is a Miller close by. People will purchase stuff and by the time they get to by my house, they’re dropping bottles, plastic bottles. And for me, it’s like every time, I just pick them up and throw them away. I’m doing that because I’m conscious that it’s first in front of my house, and second, there is a drainage right there, so I’m cleaning it. But how many people just don’t care, you know?

SM: Yeah.

WA: So, we need to do that part, and then second, all these big trees, how often do we check that their roots are not interfering with the drainage? So, this will be some very simple stuff to think about by the time we get to the big stuff, you see?

SM: Mm-hmm [affirmative], yeah.

WA: So, yeah, these are my points.

SM: Like my mom was saying, I really feel like a lot of the stuff is preventative, like there are actions that can be taken. Like Mom was saying, just making sure the drainage systems are working properly, and—

WA: As a start—

SM: —actually—

WA: —because there’s much—

SM: Right, like—

WA: —more than that to do.

SM: And that’s a good place to start, and I feel like that’s something that’s feasible, that’s something we could really just like, we could start initially, do that tomorrow, you know what I’m saying?

WA: Mm-hmm [affirmative].

SM: But I really feel like people are not concerned unless it’s directly impacting their community, and I feel like that’s the largest issue. I don’t know, I feel like when I think about floods, when I think about natural disasters in this area, a lot of the time, I think about community, especially in Broad Creek because we were so much—I think, yeah, we were really close with our neighbors then, so it would be a lot of like sharing resources. It will be like, “OK, are you prepared for this? Do you have a flashlight? Do you have water?” cuz if we can’t leave the house and maybe some person is more prepared than the other, it was really easy to get that covered from someone else, if we didn’t have it for ourselves.

So, I think another big thing is having that sense of community like we were talking about before, caring about your neighbor, caring about the environment because that’s the real thing. People are so caught up on making profit, and don’t really care about like, “How is this gonna impact the people living here?” How’s gonna impact— like you said, the river is not going anywhere. They can’t drain it, they can’t get rid of it, we have to work around it. So, if we are conscious of making bad decisions just for the sake of getting a couple dollars, like that’s not smart, and it’s also not useful. There’s no benefits to that in the long run. So, yeah, I think the real issue is working with nature, which you know, maybe like Mom said, we’ve gone too far, but you can only do what you can do at this point, and I think doing that preventative action like getting people aware of how they can protect themselves and kind of be prepared for this situation, I think that’s really important, but yeah…

GI: Yeah, well, thank you, both for your time.

WA: Thank you.

SM: Yeah!

WA: That was good.

GI: Yeah, it was.

Interview with Wilmina Augustin

& Sergine Mombrun

(Ward's Corner)