HOUSTON — For Cedar Falls native Mary Jackson, the phrase “up on the roof” became more than an old pop song by the Drifters this week.
That’s where she was — up on the roof of her flooded Houston home until neighbors rescued her, her two dogs and three cats Tuesday.
“I feel loved. That’s all I can say. I feel loved,” Jackson said Wednesday morning as she went for a walk with family and friends near Lake Conroe, where she is staying for now.
That includes friends in Texas and Iowa.
“I can’t begin to express the outpouring of support for me personally, the outpouring of care and concern from people from Cedar Falls,” she said. The 1978 Columbus High School graduate left Iowa in 1983.
Iowa friends recognized her on the NBC “Nightly News” on Monday sitting on her roof during unprecedented flooding brought by Hurricane Harvey. She was photographed by a cameraman from a U.S. Coast Guard boat patrolling the neighborhood.
Jackson stayed with her home as long as she could. She and a friend who had been temporarily staying with her were holed up in the upper level. When she left, “the water was waist deep, almost up to the kitchen counter. Appliances were floating. Furniture was floating. I have no idea when I’m going to get back there.”
Jackson has lived in Houston since 2001 and in her current home since 2004, having previously lived in Lubbock, Texas. The rain began after she attended Catholic Mass Saturday night. She began setting belongings on countertops as the water began to rise in her driveway and backyard.
She put her pets upstairs. She moved food and water upstairs. She and her friend also shut off power on the lower levels of the house. She was prepared to live upstairs a few days, “assuming it wouldn’t get as horrible as it was.”
But the water kept rising. She went out on the roof Monday to look around the neighborhood as water became waist deep. When a Coast Guard boat passed by, her friend opted to leave, but Jackson stayed. She still had food, power and her pets.
Monday night, a couple living in a one-story home took shelter with her.
“Right then, I lost power,” Jackson said. Her mobile phone also lost power — but not before she had sent text messages to a couple of friends. They responded — in force.
“We had the most amazing neighborhood response. They had kayaks and canoes and were rescuing people — not just picking them up, but their belongings,” she said.
They rescued Jackson and her furry friends. The neighbor couple stayed until they could return to their home and communicated to her they were safe.
“It’s like being in the middle of a disaster movie,” Jackson said.
She had a lot of support in Texas and Iowa, and from her church community at St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Houston.
“They’re like family,” she said. “Without my faith, I don’t know what I would have done to keep going,” she said.
Friends in Iowa have a GoFundMe account to help her financially at https://www.gofundme.com/chrj3-20000.
Jackson noted she saw a welcome sight on her Wednesday morning walk.