With every heartache, tragedy and even hurricane, life gives us a lesson.
On the eve of Hurricane Irma hitting the Florida Keys, my mom and sister arrived with their car packed with supplies and the bare necessities like flash lights, cases of water, clothes, medicine and food. It was about 10 p.m. and I could see the exhaustion in their eyes. They spent the two days prior scavenging for wood to board up their home and with little sleep made the five hour commute battling traffic across I-75.
We felt anxious but hopeful that the storm would weaken and our homes and lives would remain out of harm’s way. Miami was projected to get a direct hit from Irma and forecasters were heeding warnings to evacuate. A Category 4 of this magnitude could destroy the city and they didn’t want residents taking any chances. So my family left Miami to stay with us in Largo. Like many people fleeing South Florida, Tampa Bay and Orlando were supposed to be safe. That is until Saturday morning when Irma shifted west and was headed straight for us at a projected Category 3.
My husband, mom, sister, pets and I did the next best thing and evacuated to the Orlando area to stay with family there. After spending an entire Saturday morning and afternoon boarding up our home in last minute preparations, we had a sigh of relief when we arrived in Apopka that night. Sunday morning we sat around the table enjoying a warm cooked breakfast together. And for me it was particularly great because I was finishing my last day of antibiotic treatment for a kidney infection. The medication put my digestion in a tailspin and I was glad to finally be off of it.
That celebratory breakfast was short lived when the 11 o’clock weather update announced Hurricane Irma was moving up the center of the state right towards Orlando, which was right where we were. Not again, I thought. There was no time to evacuate to a different part of the state now. We had to “hunker down,” as the forecasters repeatedly said, and pray that our home and family would be safe. I believed it would be but there were moments that night when the pounding of Irma’s gusts against the windows made me feel like a scared 4-year-old hiding under the covers waiting for the first break of light to peak through the shades. I thought of hiding in the closet or watching TV to distract myself but there was no chance of that without power. I didn’t sleep much that night.
I heard the howling of the wind, the clickety-clack of the bathroom vents and a piece of the home siding banging on the window most of the night. I tried to wake my husband up because I was scared, but he was too asleep to comfort me. I sought refuge in the bathroom where the cats were and hung out with them before getting up to walk around the house and check if anyone else was awake. My mom, sister, and father in-law were all asleep. My mother in-law was awake pacing the house like me. There was nothing left to do. Pace or sleep, take your pick. I went back to sleep.
Going Home After Hurricane Irma
When Irma finally made her way north and we were in the clear, there was a feeling of uncertainty left with me. I wondered if our home survived, if any of my family and friends were injured and if their homes were intact. I also thought about the cows I saw grazing the fields on the way to Apopka. Were they evacuated and if not, did they survive? What about the woodpeckers and the ducks that live in our neighborhood. Were they okay?
We drove back the following day uncertain of what we were driving home to. I felt nervous about my mom and sister’s drive back to Miami and what they had ahead of them. But while that uncertainty hovered in the background, my faith that whatever lie ahead was for our greatest good took hold. Whether we lost it all or not, we had each other and our families were united. I knew that Irma’s lesson was to believe in the strength of our family and the faith we have in each other. No matter what happens in life these are the people who always have my back and I have theirs.
Irma may have frightened us, she may have made us question our lives in some way and her wrath may have inconvenienced us, but she brought us together. And for that I am thankful. For the first time in two years, I met my neighbors two doors down from me who helped us board up our house. I saw people offering supplies to others who had nothing and across Facebook friends posted support sites, shared news and even their homes to those of us without power. I saw the kindness of strangers renew hope that we are all in this together. All of us. And that made me feel loved.
What did Hurricane Irma teach you? Share in the comments.