Reporter's Notebook: Houston's future is bittersweet

After millions of raindrops, thousands of evacuations, spectacular shows of Texas grit, humanity and humility, what lies ahead for Houston is now here – and sometimes it’s bittersweet.

It’s in the tears of 8-year-old Tony Holmes. The years have been tough for the second grader. He lost both parents by the age of 3. He lives with his aunt Angela and her four kids. He knows the sharp sting of reality. It isn’t going to get any better. Not immediately anyway.

He knows it because he’s lived it.

Tony is one of 30,000 still in Houston-area shelters.

For Houstonians like him, moments when you lose everything you thought you knew, loved, cherished –when they are gone in an instant, you look at life differently.

The sharp sting of reality is that life isn’t going to get any better for Tony. Not immediately, anyway.

But like Tony’s world, Houston will eventually heal.

Houston Strong – the city will still stand proudly long after the media vans now piled on top of one another drive away from the George R. Brown Convention Center, and after headline-grabbing gator fears pass through the news cycle and after the spotlight of the nation is turned to another corner of the country.

Gov. Greg Abbott said Friday that getting his state back in order would be a “massive, massive clean-up process. It’s going to be larger than Katrina,” he said.

The Texas Department of Public Safety announced more than 37,000 homes have had “major damage” and another 7,000 have been destroyed by Harvey. FEMA puts the number of houses impacted by the monster storm at 100,000.

First responders and other search and rescue teams launched block-by-block recovery operations Thursday after the rain finally seemed to stop, though some cities and towns on Friday were still feeling the immediate threat.

In Richmond, Texas, the river was still rising early Friday morning. The police department there is surrounded by water.

“This is ridiculous,” a Miami-based first responder told me at a Houston hotel. All around the country, hundreds of police, DEA and other law enforcement have been flocking to the city to help Houston get back on its feet.

 “We go wherever we’re needed and we don’t complain,” one DEA officer said. “We’re here to help and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Though there is still a lot of destruction there are signs that things are getting back to normal.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, after taking an aerial tour of the city Thursday, declared the area was “mostly dry” and open for business.

Harvey’s widespread flooding prevented more than a quarter million students from going back to school this week. The city announced some schools would reopen on Sept. 11. That’s good news for Tony.

Asked if he was prepared for homework he said, “Yeah. I can handle Harvey. I can handle homework.”

Over the weekend, Houston will be getting some more high profile visits. On Friday, a day before President Trump is set to return to the Lone Star State, he signed a declaration making Sunday a "Day of Prayer" for victims of Harvey.

Abbott said the state will pray Sunday for those affected by the storm, for first responders and for those who know the real work of recovery has only just begun.

 “Throughout this disaster, we have seen the power of Texans helping Texans, and I am hopeful this proclamation will bring people together once more,” Abbott said.  “We have remained strong throughout this ordeal, and this Day of Prayer will make us even stronger.”