In Texas, Lines, Lines, Lines…

February 28, 2021

By Sister Rose Weidenbenner

In the Rio Grande Valley, which is as far south as one can drive in Texas before reaching Mexico, people have gotten used to waiting in lines, long lines.

An image of Sister Pat Mulderick handing out blankes and food to one of persons in need waiting in the long lines.
After the devastating winter storms in Texas in February, women received blankets and food at the ARISE Support Center in Alamo. Sister Pat Mulderick was one of the Sisters of Mercy distributing items.

When COVID-19 testing was first available, people camped in their cars for hours, often overnight, in hopes of receiving one of the 200 free tests being offered at various sites around the county. Those who could pay $150 for a test also ended up waiting in long lines to register, only to discover they had to wait in another long line to receive the test. Finally, when the number of free tests increased to 5,000 per day, it was common to wait in line for more than four hours and then have to administer the uncomfortable test to oneself! 

As the pandemic worsened, local news channels showed disturbing images of residents waiting in long queues to receive hospital care for themselves or family members. As deaths from COVID numbered into the hundreds and then thousands, family members found themselves again enduring long delays as their loved ones were prepared for burial, and then they waited again to bury them. It often took months to process deaths through overburdened funeral homes.

And then the food lines started. Week after week after week, people sat in a queue of cars that stretched for miles; at other times, they stood in lines in heat-laden parking lots to purchase enough food to get them through to the next day.

And now that the vaccine has finally arrived, county officials have required residents to wait yet again. Only this time, they stand for hours, first in one line, and then in a second one. The first queue is just to register and receive a wrist band approving them for the vaccine. With the wrist band, they have the necessary approval to return the following day to wait in the second queue. There, they wait, hoping to get one of the limited number of doses. When the doses run out, the remainder of registered people begin the search for another line to start the process all over again. 

In the middle of February, residents were told to prepare for two approaching, potentially devastating, winter storms. Families in houses not built for harsh winters endured record-breaking temperatures. Most of the vegetation and fruit groves so familiar to South Texas and so essential for the local economy were destroyed. Jobs continue to be eliminated as rows of fields and acres of fruit groves stand rotting from the freeze. There are no unemployment lines for farmworkers.

And then the lines began again. Families in need of food went to darkened grocery stores to purchase what they could. Some turned to fast-food chains, because they still had power, but even these soon ran out. After waiting in long lines to place their orders, people found themselves turned away only a short distance from the take-out window. Lines for bottled water also formed as pipes in homes and places of business burst from the cold. When told to let water drip from the faucets to prevent frozen pipes, many found there was no water to drip!

And then the gas lines began. When some gas stations lost power, people waited in their cars, lined up for blocks at the few stations that had working pumps.

Whether they waited in lines for testing, vaccines, food, water, gas, propane—people in Texas have waited in line after line after line. More than 42,000 have died from COVID, and millions have endured a record-breaking freeze. There is a saying here now: “2020 was hell, but in 2021 hell froze over.” Politicians point the finger of blame, owning nothing. They fail to inspire, to get things moving. They fail to acknowledge what led to these disasters and learn from them. Instead, they blame windmills.

One line residents will not have to stand in is the “who’s-to-blame” line. The bureaucratic nightmare of the pandemic, and now the defunct Texas power grid, continue. Perhaps the line of greatest witness is of the tents of asylum seekers waiting at the line drawn between the United States and Mexico.


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  1. Cathleen Cahill

    Thank you Rose. So thoughtful and challenging.

  2. Rita Valade RSM

    Oh my gosh Rose.. what a horrific tale you shared with us. I was exhausted just reading about the work necessary for many Texans to survive. Thank you for your ministry and witness.

  3. Sheila carney

    This is very powerful and saddening, Rose. Thank you for this glimpse into the Texas reality.

  4. Doris Gottemoeller, RSM

    A powerful, yet wryly humorous, look at what the last year has meant! Thanks so much, Rose.

  5. Sister Natalie Rossi

    Thank you for this devastating information. It brings me to my knees to realize what so many of our sisters and brothers are having to endure. It is unbelievable.

  6. Mary Ann Clifford

    Thank you Rose, for your vivid description of life in the Rio grand valley.

  7. Mary Daly RSM


  8. Richard Mary

    Dear Rose, your factual, yet poignant account of these challenging times is both heart-rending and inspiring. The fidelity of the people to keep helping one another “begin again” every day is such a strong witness for all of us. Thank you for being their voice to invite us to do the same wherever we are. Love and prayers, RM

  9. Sr. Marie McIntyre rsm

    The facts in the article about the sufferings endured by the people of Texas is heart breaking. May God strengthen those who are trying to feed the hungry and clothe the freezing people with blankets etc. including our Mercy Sisters involved.

  10. Margaret Platte

    Thanks Rose for sharing the harsh realities of the people in Texas. It brings tears to my eyes. What can we do to help?

  11. Judy Carey

    Rose, thank you for putting the “sequence of lines” together! Heartbreaking for everyone! Arise has certainly been a blessing to so many.

  12. Joan Marie O’Donnell

    Your report was so enlightening. Such injustice! How can we help those you are serving?

  13. Rachelle Harper

    I am deeply touched by your heart-rending description of what so many Texans go thru and are still enduring. I have many family members around Houston but they didn’t suffer like the ones you showed us. Thank you for your meditation…..

  14. Martha Larsen

    Californians are moving to TX because of lower taxes, etc. They have moved to a nightmare, but they also brought ideas from a more caring state. May all this be a wakeup call to Texans to elected better folks. And thank you to AOC who has raised millions to help Texans when few/NO ?? Texan politician did that. May there be better days ahead.

  15. LuAnn Hannasch

    Your reflection regarding lines, waiting in lines, prompted me to reflect on how lines can be controlling and barriers such as the “line” between Mexico and USA.
    Thank you

  16. Catherine

    My heart goes out to all of you in Texas.

  17. Kristine Wagner

    How very sad. Thank you for what you do.

  18. Janet Rozzano

    Your reflection is so powerful and moving, Rose. It reminds me again that I have nothing to complain about, and every reason to offer prayer and what practical help I can to those who are suffering so much.

  19. Eileen McDonnell, RSM

    Rose,your powerful and poignant description of the harsh reality that is being faced by our sisters and brothers in Texas,is more than heart wrenching. Besides,the given of our prayers and concern, is there anything we as Sisters of Mercy can do?

  20. Betty Scanlon

    Thank you Rose for opening our minds and hearts to so many lines drawn. Peace!

  21. Camilla F Martocchia

    How sad that this is happening in our country. Thank you for this heart wrenching account. Prayers for all involved.

  22. Marie Seymour

    Rose, Thank you so much for your insightful, detailed and compassionate view of the trials and tribulations of the people in Texas. How this is happening in our country is unbelievable and yet so real. When are we going to wake up to the harshness of life for our sisters and brothers and hold our politicians and our policies accountable for this pain and suffering ? We really need to wake up and help and enable in any and all ways possible!!

  23. Marie Seymour

    Rose, Thank you so much for your insightful, detailed and compassionate view of the trials and tribulations of the people in Texas. How this is happening in our country is unbelievable and yet so real. When are we going to wake up to the harshness of life for our sisters and brothers and hold our politicians and our policies accountable for this pain and suffering ?

  24. Marie Seymour

    Rose, Thank you so much for your insightful, detailed and compassionate view of the trials and tribulations of the people in Texas. How this is happening in our country is unbelievable and yet so real. Love and prayers, Annette

  25. Suzanne Ryder

    What holy waiting, Rose. May you be blessed in your witness.

  26. Frances Moore

    This is unbelievable
    What can one person do to help this situation

  27. Theresa Saetta

    Rose, what a devastating experience for those on the margins and those Texans who never thought they’d end up there! Prayers and advocacy continue! Thank you for your witness at the border.

  28. Pauline Borghello, R.S.M.

    Rose, “Lines in Texas” vividly brings to mind the division between those who have and those who have not. Thank you for reminding us and thank you for what you do for those who have not.

  29. Mary Ann Clarahan RSM

    Rose, this is heartbreaking to imagine what these folks are enduring. Thanks for all that you and Pat Mulderick are doing to offer a merciful presence.

  30. Rita Parks

    Rose, thank you for this powerful and mercy-full reflection.

  31. Erencia Saipweirik

    Very saddening. Thank you for sharing. My heart goes out to all of you and be assured of my prayers.

  32. Emily Devine, RSM

    Rose, thank you for sharing, a few years ago I met many lovely women from there. and this makes me feel sad. I will pray Arise has a strong recovery and there is NO – .who’s-to-Blame. Together we can Rise. Blessings

  33. Frances Repka

    Rose, thank you for sharing this sad plight of our Texan sisters and brothers and for being there to support and serve. How Mercy is sorely needed!

  34. Marianne Comfort

    Thanks for this powerful witness of the struggles of the people of the Rio Grande Valley. Very much appreciate you sharing this reality with us.