NEW YORK — Zina Garrison had just enough clothes to get by and her beloved Peekapoo pup, Sochi, in her arms as she decided to leave her Houston home with Hurricane Harvey approaching last Thursday.
Not knowing if she’d see her home in the same condition again, the former tennis star told herself to run back into her house.
“I’m trying not to cry thinking about it,” an emotional Garrison told ESPN on Wednesday during a phone interview. “For some reason, [something] told me to grab my medals, my [1988 Olympic women’s doubles] gold medal [and 1988 bronze singles medal]. I grabbed them and thought about things that I could like stuff I had on my computer. And Maya Angelou and John Biggers did a book and I knew that both were dead and I would never be able to get them back. Something told me to go back and get them.”
Garrison — who became the first African-American woman to reach a Grand Slam final since Althea Gibson when she made the Wimbledon final in 1990 — has not been able to return to her Riverstone, Texas house because of the historic flooding in Houston. Garrison, 53, is currently safe as she stays with her sister, Judy, in a Houston suburb. But she says she saw her subdivision under water on television.
She has spent the last four days frantically trying to get one of her nephews a much-needed dialysis treatment while trying to see if another nephew, who is a first responder, is safe, while also checking on the 200-plus kids who attend her Zina Garrison Academy. She only has been able to reach a handful of her academy students as so many Houston residents are without power and displaced from their homes.
“Emotionally it is very draining and very tough,” Garrison said, pausing and her voice choking numerous times during the interview. “For one thing, you are sitting there and you are watching and worried about people and where they are and you are worried about people coming out. One thing I have always loved about the city of Houston is that we are the city that cares. You see people helping. It doesn’t matter what race, what economical base, people just started helping people.
“Emotionally, it makes you so … I have a nervous stomach. I have been throwing up. My nerves are on edge. On the other end of it, I have a nephew that has to get dialysis. The last four days have just been trying to get him dialysis and it has been absolutely crazy. Today, I ended up at George R. Brown [convention center] at 6:30 in the morning trying to get dialysis. He ended up in a hospital and then a shelter and then taken to Waco.”
A sheriff’s official north of Houston says two men died this week in separate drownings, bringing the number of confirmed Harvey-related deaths to 20.
Garrison says her sister started to take her nephew, Terrence Kelly, to the hospital for dialysis only to be stranded in deep water. Kelly finally got a dialysis treatment on Wednesday.
“They got stuck in water,” Garrison said of her sister’s first attempt to take Kelly to receive dialysis….