It’s been almost 2 weeks since Irma came barreling her way through the state of Florida. I am driving down the turnpike taking my kids to a birthday party when I look next to me and see eight Budget trucks with the Red Cross sign on the back. My heart is suddenly filled with warmth and sadness. Warmth seeing that these trucks are headed to help people in need most likely filled with the thousands of donations from people wanting to help in some way. It was amazing to see how much our town and the state as a whole came together in preparation and clean-up of this unknown hurricane coming at us. Sadness to think about where those trucks are headed, what these people’s homes and town must look like.
If you’re not a Florida native you aren’t prepared for what comes with Hurricane season. No one tells you when you move to Florida to make sure you have hurricane shutters or windows and a generator. Or if you are told you push it away as your just happy to be living in warm weather and by the beach. My family has now lived here for five years and we have been lucky enough to only have two experiences with hurricane season as it has mainly been quiet. But I never realized until Irma how much that “scare” of a natural disaster sticks with you.
I have spent this past week racking my brain of a blog to write and as much as I am sick of talking about Irma, I can’t yet get it out of my head. You spend days preparing your house for this storm coming your way not quite sure where it is headed. You uproot your family and leave or you buckle down and stay put and you wait. You wait to see if you will have a home when you return or when this thing is over, you wait to see what kind of damage this thing will bring, you wait for the power to go out, you wait for the power to come back on, you wait to open your fridge and see what you can save and toss, you wait for grocery stores and restaurants to re-open so you can feel normal again, you wait in gas lines to fill up your tank and pray you don’t run out. If one thing tests your patience, it’s a hurricane.
My family decided to evacuate. We made the choice to head to Atlanta and make a family trip to keep our minds off of what may or may not be going on at our house. We pull up to the hotel after a 13-hour car ride which should regularly be 8 hours. We fill two hotel carts with all our stuff, bringing as much clothes as we could (not knowing when we would be able to return), bringing our cat and dog and all the things they require, bringing diapers and pack and play, and a small safe with all important documents. As we walk into the hotel and I look at these carts this wave of fear washes over me. This is what we have of our life with us not knowing if and when we will be able to return to our home.
I see others pouring into the hotel with their pets and as much stuff as we have. “Are you an evacuee?” The question that keeps getting asked over and over again and every time I hear it I am caught off guard. Yes, I evacuated my home but being called an evacuee sounds like someone who has already lost their home. But it also brings comfort that we are not doing this alone we are in this together all living with these fears and stress.
Hurricane season for native Floridians has become routine for them they live by, “prepare for the worst and pray for the best.” They know when and how to prepare they have the items they need and each hurricane brings memories of ones they fared in the past. For those of us who are not natives we are learning. With each hurricane, we are learning to prepare, to be patient, and to pray.