It has been a 9 days since I took this photo. We survived the hurricane and it was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before in my life. Some people are still without power. The water has been restored in most places, but we are required to boil it before we can use it for drinking or cooking until further notice. It was bad. The truest of true colors came out in people and I watched as our community came together. We supported one another, both physically, emotionally, spiritually and sometimes financially.
I was one of the lucky ones, my electricity came on just 2 days after the storm so we were able to go home. The tree you see in the photo at the top of the blog is an ancient magnolia tree in the yard of the house we were graciously offered as a safe haven during the storm. The tree will survive and thankfully, the home had no damage, the woman who lives there is one of those who still has no electricity. That ramshackle shed lying next to the tree, I watched cart-wheel over the fence during the storm and land on its side and stay there.
We were able to go home Sunday night and sleep in our own beds, even though we didn’t have internet or running water at that point, we took the opportunity to bring all of our animals home to their normal environment and the next morning we woke up to the beautiful noise of the toilet tank filling, the water was back on. Glorious water. I don’t think I’ve ever stripped that fast or felt such gratitude for a warm-ish shower in my life. I immediately put water on the stove to boil to make it safe for coffee and then I went online, using my phone data and let everyone on Facebook know my home was available for hot showers, laundry services, a place to charge their phones and electronics or to just get out of the heat and enjoy some air conditioning. We had several takers, we provided showers (and one leisurely bath) for 10 people, did 8 loads of laundry, fed 6 people, charged 7 phones and countless portable power-banks for charging on the go.
Every day we waited for news that my parents, who are elderly, had their power restored. By day 7, the weather was really heating up and it just wasn’t safe for them to stay there anymore, and my parents – who’d held it together amazingly well, were starting to fray at the edges. Then some wonderfully generous people offered to loan them their generator and a window unit and regain some sense of normalcy.
The street lights in our city have been mostly all down. We don’t have the best drivers on a good day, but when every major intersection turns into a four-way stop we learned really quickly where we are lacking in teaching our teen drivers how to navigate without the red, yellow, green flashy things up on the poles. We got through it, there were indeed some wrecks, and some angers flared, but now thank goodness, we have the majority of the lights on the major thoroughfares back up and running.
I’ve seen businesses take this opportunity to put profits aside and offer free of charge water and ice to people trying every day to keep their food cold without refrigeration. I’ve seen more restaurants open the minute they got power and serve the public with a “pay if you can” policy. There have been donations of bagged ice, flats of water and MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat) from all around the nation to help us. I’ve seen people pay for each others gas, offer the last loaf of bread to the person behind them at the store, and ask a complete stranger if they were ok, how did their home hold up? I’ve seen groups of people pile into boats and go into flooded areas to rescue dogs that had to be left behind for one reason or another. I’ve seen vets offer free emergency care or dog food because it would be one less thing someone would have to worry about. I’ve offered and seen others offer hugs to total strangers, who were just having one of those “I can’t anymore today” moments and we have all experienced those moments over these last 9 days.
I’ve learned that through a catastrophic natural disaster, emotional eating and emotional drinking are ok – and we’ve all been doing it. I know that for me, it’s been months since I’ve drunk this much beer over a week, but for me there was just no other way to cope, No other way to make my mind stop running and make it another day and I just really don’t care about the calories right now. That sounds melodramatic, but we have been through sometime for the record books in the South. Our area of Texas hasn’t seen this much damage and catastrophic basic-needs failure….ever!
We could have really turned on one another. We could have gone full-on Post Apocalyptic Mad-Max on one another, but for the most part we didn’t. Some have taken advantage and there has been some looting, which for those who chose that route, they will pay a price at some point. Most; however, have looked at what those around them need and then looked at what they had to offer to mitigate that need. We offer what we can, even if that’s just a cool, dry place to sit and read a book while your laundry is getting clean, or a meal is being prepared for you. Or, in other cases, it’s checking on your neighbors because you care and offering to help clear all the broken limbs and fallen trees off their cars and yard.
One last thing that was reinforced for me through this hurricane is that everything indeed, does happen for a reason. I’ll insert a photo of my old apartment building.
I used to live in that apartment building, in the bottom apartment to be exact. That wall would have been the exterior wall to my daughters bedroom. If I were still married, I would still live in that apartment. When I saw what had happened to that space I used to call home, I was….dare I use the term “shook”.
These last months (almost a year) have been so hard at times. We moved to a new apartment right after the break up and I am happy to report that our new apartment only suffered two tiny spots of water damage that are completely cosmetic and won’t really impact us at all. I feel blessed, I feel protected, there have been times these last few days when I’ve also felt really, really alone. There were times when I just couldn’t be tasked with one more decision, one more thing to care for, one more thing to do. If it hadn’t been for the help of my daughter – who was amazing through this, I don’t know what would have happened. I’m also really glad that she got to witness and experience how beautiful it is to be of service to others in their time of need. She was there with me, cooking, washing laundry, greeting people, listening to their hurricane stories, making coffee, charging electronics for the wayward souls who happened to grace our doorstep. She did it right next to me, shoulder to shoulder. I’m a really lucky lady to have such a strong, resilient, tough as nails kid in the house.
Wow, this is a really long blog. I’m sure so many of you are sick and tired of hearing the name “Harvey”, I get it….NO, REALLY, I get it! I am too. I have been needing to write all these things for days, even after my internet was restored a day or so ago, but I have been in deep-processing mode. I think it took hearing from my parents earlier this afternoon that their power is back on and they are going to be ok that finally let me feel like it was over, for the most part. I stood in my kitchen and cried and cried. Releasing all the pent-up worry, fear, anxiety, anger and helplessness I’ve felt for the last 9 days. I cried tears so big and fat that they landed on our dog, who at that moment came to lay against my feet until I was done crying, just because she knew I needed her there.
We are ok. We will continue to be ok and what is broken will be rebuilt. We are alive, our loved ones are ok, and life each day will continue to get a little bit closer to normal. We will pray for the other communities and cities that are effected by this beast of a storm and pray that they come out of it stronger just like we did.
Thank you for reading and being apart of my journey.