As glass crashed at the Sam Houston State University’s recreation center Thursday, senior mass communication and Spanish major Lizeth De La Garza took pictures and video with her phone of the flooding and posted them on Twitter. The pictures were then picked up by The Weather Channel, Good Morning America and many local stations. The Houstonian spoke with De La Garza about her “15 seconds of fame.”
H: Where were you when the storm happened?
LD: During the storm I was here in the mass [communication] building, but then I was called into the rec to possibly sub a class. I was upstairs [at the rec] when the whole thing actually happened. I heard a really loud boom. I thought somebody got shot. Next thing you know, a lot of people starting coming from the bottom which is where the rec, the rock climbing wall and MP2 is at. A lot of people started coming out of there because a lot of water started coming in randomly. I got my phone out and was like ‘I’ve got to do this’ and started videotaping this.
H: Was that the journalism instinct coming out in you to snap pictures?
LD: I was like ‘this is amazing, it’s happening,’ but when I was taking pictures and such, it was the journalist in me. You always have to have your phone out. Obviously nobody carries their camera around. Everybody always carries their phone around. I was like, ‘man, I have to put this on Twitter.’ I was just going to post it randomly, then I started tagging random news stations and especially The Weather Channel.
H: When you started posting it, did any of them reply?
LD: The only one that actually picked it up and asked me about it was The Weather Channel. They messaged me and were like ‘Hey, is it okay if we use your picture and video? We’ll give you full credit for it,’ and I was like ‘Yes, go ahead.’
H: Did you see it on The Weather Channel?
LD: Yes, it was interesting. Had it been anybody else, I would have been like ‘you’re famous for two seconds.’ It’s just the fact that I videotaped it and I took the pictures and they picked it up. It made me feel proud because I’m actually doing something that I want to do with my major and with my life. We’re taught in school to always publicize and [use] social media and it kind of came in handy.
H: How did it show the power of social media?
LD: I never thought Twitter could make it so popular. It literally got one retweet and then it went to almost 300 retweets. I didn’t think anybody was going to look at it. I didn’t even hashtag “SHSU” in it. The fact that it got picked up—and the fact it got picked up by The Weather Channel was a very big thing. It was kind of interesting how even with one retweet and one favorite, it got picked up by a major network like The Weather Channel. The only one that gave me credit and I saw it was The Weather Channel. Everyone else that I was looking at said it got picked up by Dallas and ABC 13 in Houston. It makes me want to see things and be like ‘You know what? I’m going to post this.’
H: How do you see yourself thinking about social media more?
LD: It brought out the journalism because the day after, I was there at seven in the morning, checked out a camera and started b-rolling everything, the aftermath right now. My b-roll is on point. I have the before and after. It’s just kind of interesting.
H: What was it like looking at the window glass crash?
LD: At five o’ clock when I was in the mass communication building, there was a tornado warning. As soon as I got over there about 15 minutes later, the tornado warning was still going on. I thought there was a possible tornado that might have happened. I saw the glass crash, but I didn’t see whenever the wall completely came down. As I was running around, that happened. But then I got my phone out and I saw whenever the water was rushing in. It was kind of insane. You could tell everybody was freaking out. It just sucks for the rec that now a lot of us are losing hours because of it.
H: What do you mean losing hours?
LD: I know that the gym is open from 6 a.m. to 7:45 a.m. but from 8 to noon it’s closed, so for those people that only had availability around that time, their classes are canceled and… we’re all losing hours.
H: What does MP1 and MP2 stand for?
LD: Multipurpose room one and multipurpose room two, but multipurpose room two was the one that was right next to the wall. I’m pretty sure that the people who do rock climbing are losing hours, too, because they can’t work there.
H: Were you freaking out whenever it happened?
LD: It was kind of a freaking out moment, but you can’t act chaotic in that time because we were just trying to get a lot of people out of MP2 because there were people there that were doing yoga and that’s whenever the water started coming in and they were just trying to get out. Luckily, no one was hurt so that’s always the best part.
H: When you went to sleep that night…
LD: I actually didn’t go to sleep that night. I was like ‘Oh, this is a really good story so this is what I’m going to do—I’m going to wake up early in the morning and I’m going to go get a camera and get some b-roll and I’m going to go see what’s going on after.’ I actually got to look inside the gym when they were cleaning it up the morning after and it looked really bad.
H: What did it look like?
LD: Obviously there was no more water but just everything was destroyed. They have cycling classes down there and so a lot of the bicycles got ruined.
H: You’re hoping that everything goes back to normal, I suppose?
LD: I hope that everything goes back to normal, for sure, but I also hope that, for me, my biggest concern is that I know the rec has insurance but I don’t want tuition to go up even more because I know that this is going to come out of our tuition. I do hope that everything goes back to normal, and I’m sure it will, but it’s going to take a lot. There’s a lot of damage. They’re going to have to tear out all the floors, they’re going to have to tear out everything because the rock climbing floors aren’t tile, they’re this squishy foam and I think that got messed up so they’re going to have to take everything out.