Dear Houston, I Love You

Sarah Stukalin

For my entire 22 years of life, I have called Houston, Texas my home. I grew up with Mattress Mack on my television, late-night trips to Whataburger, Saturday afternoon Astro’s games, and the best tex-mex you’ve ever tasted. And while I loved being able to call Houston home all of these years, it wasn’t until 2017 that I truly learned what it meant to be a Houstonian. 

“The 500-year flood” was what scientists called it: Hurricane Harvey had landed in Houston, destroying homes, businesses, and lives. Trapped in my home by the greatest amount of flooding I had ever seen, there was nothing to do but watch the devastation unfold. And while so much was lost from Hurricane Harvey, I could never have imagined the level of community that was fostered out of the wreckage. 

Days after the Hurricane I watched people of all walks of life come together to rebuild our city, with the one common denominator being that we were Houstonians. I watched people going house to house in boats to transport stranded people, I watched people donate thousands of pieces of clothing to temporary shelters, and I watched Houstonians welcome each other into their homes to recover from the storm. Since recovering from Hurricane Harvey, I have never been prouder to be a Houstonian, and I have never felt a stronger sense of community within the place I call home. 

A large element of what creates this sense of community is music. Houston is the place where artists such as Megan Thee Stallion, Lizzo, Paul Wall, Beyoncé, and ZZ Top were made. And while these artists may create within different genres of music, they are bound together by an outspoken love for Houston. 

Travis Scott was perhaps the artist Houstonians rallied around the most. With numerous charitable efforts, Houston sportsmanship, and hometown concerts, Travis Scott quickly rose from SoundCloud rapper to a symbol of Houston pride. Going to school in Pennsylvania, listening to Travis Scott’s music felt like listening to a piece of home. He was so proud to be from Houston, and Houston was proud to have been his birthplace. It is hard to imagine that this would all someday go wrong. 

Last week an unthinkable tragedy occurred at Travis Scott’s Astroworld Festival in Houston. Due to a large crowd surge, a lack of security and medical personnel, and Travis Scott’s inability to stop the concert despite the cries of the concertgoers, hundreds of people were injured, with ten confirmed deaths. 

Astroworld Festival was an incredibly avoidable tragedy. Not long after the news broke, videos began to surface of hundreds of people breaking down fences to enter the concert, showing the clear lack of security personnel at the event and the disregard for the safety of those who purchased tickets. Additionally, videos surfaced of concertgoers climbing on top of ambulances, medical personnel dropping people from stretchers, and people attempting to storm the stage to stop the concert. The entire event was chaos, and one of the largest concert tragedies the United States has ever seen. 

In the aftermath of the concert, lawsuits have begun to pour in against Live Nation, Travis Scott, Drake, and many others who carelessly allowed an event of Astroworld Festival’s nature to go on. Travis Scott has canceled multiple upcoming concerts and has now announced that he will pay the funeral expenses for those who lost their lives, as well as offer free therapy to all attendees. However, it would be bold to assume his career will ever return to the height of what it was. 

Since this tragedy, Travis Scott’s dark past of inciting violence in his concerts has come to light, as he encourages storming the stage, with a fan even walking away from one of his concerts paralyzed. While many factors went into the destruction of the Astroworld Festival, there is no question that Travis Scott’s actions are to blame as well.

For the city of Houston, Travis Scott went from being a respected figure and a symbol of our city to a traitor. I loved Travis Scott. I went to his concerts, listened to his music, shopped at his store, ate at his café, and respected him as a figure who helped foster a level of community among my city. Now, I don’t think I will ever be able to listen to him without being reminded of this careless tragedy. 

As people continue to fight for their lives in the hospital from this event, I find myself grieving the loss of life, innocence, and safety as a result of this concert. The trees in my neighborhood are now wrapped in green ribbons to remember a boy who died, with my high school wearing green for a day to grieve this loss. Donations are pouring in for the affected families, and flowers are being left at the scene of the tragedy. Make no mistake, Houstonians will stop at nothing to support each other. 

I take comfort in knowing the families affected by this tragedy have the support system of an entire city to help them grieve their loss and pray for their loved ones. And I take comfort knowing that despite facing a large amount of tragedy, the community fostered among Houston only continues to grow stronger. I will forever be proud to be from Houston, and I will hold those lost in my memory for years to come, as I know all Houstonians will.