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Beauty from Pain: Reflections from Irma

So much is on my mind, but so little time is available to write about it.

I continue to watch the increasing devastation in almost numb disbelief- Harvey, Irma, earthquakes in Mexico, wild fires burning Montana and Idaho, and now Maria. What a pounding. There’s a morbid fascination in watching and reading news clips and images. It feels surreal, like an over-the-top movie. But this is real and there’s an aching to help, but I feel so small.

My home and my immediate neighborhood, aside from loss of power and freedom to flush for about a week, came through Irma well. But families in other areas of my community, my county, have lost everything: their homes, their vehicles, their momentos, and their sense of security.  But I do hope they’ve felt a sense of community and love in the outpouring of local high school sports teams, volunteers for disaster relief organizations, local church groups, and just good samaritan individuals, their neighbors, coming together to help them tear out soaked carpeting and furniture, tarping their damaged roofs, and feeding them.

You never know when you will be the one who can serve or needs to be served. It happens so fast. Where do they go from here? How do they, how do any of us, get back to a “normal life” after this? Is it even possible?

My husband and I fluctuated back and forth for days on whether or not we should leave before we finally decided to take our animals and go. Nobody could tell where Irma was going, other than she was the size to cover our entire state no matter where her eye went. There was stress and confusion. Once people decided to leave, where was it going to be safe to go? Nobody could tell where Irma was going after she left Florida. But she was a big storm, and we were offered a safe place, so we took it. We boarded up our windows, moved as much as we could off the floors, packed up our smaller valuables, and headed out in the still dark hours that Friday morning, praying and hoping for the best.

I stayed strong throughout. What could I do anyway? I was worried for my sister in Tampa and relieved when they missed the brunt of the storm. Our side of the state took the tornadoes and had a major storm surge, and all I could really do was check Facebook for updates as my freinds all rode out the storm in the middle of the night, with the noises of howling wind and “things” they could not see hitting their houses. Some managed to sleep; most did not.

Then it was over and where I was we began to see images on the news of the destruction. Even then, I was shocked, but I shed no tears. After a few days passed (we had some tropical storm type remnants in our haven), we headed home. I still had not cried, which is probably unlike me. I tend to be much more emotional than I like to admit.

Upon heading home, it became much more real. On I-95, there is generally a good mix of out of state cars with Florida cars. On the way out, almost every car was a Florida car. I’m sure everyone else had already left. On the way back, the personal vehicles belonged only to Floridians, and I wondered where exactly they were headed and what they would find when they got home. Would they even have homes? But there were also caravans of out of state trucks and vans heading down to restore our electricity, our internet, and to help cut and haul away our debris. The National Guard was bringing drinking water by the truckloads.

And that is when I cried. When we passed the “Florida Welcomes You” sign and I looked at all these people coming to help us, I cried. It didn’t matter to them what religion, race, or political affiliation these Floridians they were coming to help belonged to, but their fellow man needed help so they left their families behind and came.

Thankfully, my power is restored, and our home suffered only a few broken shingles from a palm tree that snapped in half, but so many others have rebuilding to do. I hope they see the love of others who have been and continue to come together to help. I hope they can see this as a chance for a new beginning, even as they mourn what they have lost.  I hope and pray they can find beauty from the pain.

 

 

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