Texas’ New Legend: The Land of Calamities

What does this new title say about Texans?

By Rhonda FanningMay 27, 2015 7:56 am

During his last inaugural address in 2011, Governor Rick Perry proudly proclaimed “You might say historians will look back on this as the ‘Texas Century.” And he was right, sort of. Of course, he was referring to the good stuff: a robust economy, more jobs and population growth. Manny Fernandez, Houston bureau chief for the New York Times, recently wrote that the state is indeed in the public eye, but he says it’s not what Governor Goodhair would have thought: Texas is more a “land of calamity” than a model state.

“I was just trying to capture this sense that I have of Texas,” Fernandez says. “Texas is a place not only where there’s a lot of calamities, and natural and man-made disasters, but they seem to kind of pile up on top of each other and they kind of happen in multiple ways.”

Fernandez says the disasters add up to set a tone for Texas.

“Geography and weather come into it,” he says. “When you sort of add onto that other more man-made disasters like the West explosion, it adds to sort of a chaotic feel of the state. And yet, the state is so big you almost feel it a little bit but then the state moves on.”

So much of these events seem to originate in McLennon County, is that odd?

“It’s sort of bizarre,” Fernandez says. “I thought it was interesting that one county had that biker gang shoot-out, it had the Branch Davidian Compound siege and fire, it had a really deadly tornado decades ago.”

So why nod to these events? Fernandez says, sometimes it’s a journalist’s job to merely pose the “cosmic questions that don’t have an answer.”

What does this new “land of calamities” title say about Texans?

“The small moments, the intimate moments, the one person who does something – that’s the kind of stuff that to me sort of sticks out,” he says. “There’s something about the people on the ground that are doing the work – the first responders – there’s something heroic about it.”