* PART 2: Hurricane Irma journal. *
I have never experienced a hurricane, only the aftermath of the Northridge earthquake, which pales in comparison, although no less frightening or devastating. The aftermath of Irma was more destruction than I could have ever imagined. There was an eerie stillness to each day, whether it be morning or evening. No singing birds, splashing fish or the familiar croak of the tree frogs. Streets once humming with cars, pedestrians and four legged friends were unrecognizable as they sat alone in the unmoving air. It was a deserted feeling as if we were the only humans here.
Where to begin was overwhelming, so we jumped in, first cleaning the foyer ripping out wet and moldy carpet then clearing debris from the yard hauling it to the street. The small group of us who either stayed and weathered the storm or returned the minute we were able, became bonded in a way that can only be described as family. Working together under conditions we would never wish on anyone, yet knowing we couldn’t stop until each was taken care of, felt safe.
It was easy to get side tracked, as I often did, picking up something along the way to or from the garbage, trying to find the missing match to items scattered in the yard, moving and clearing paths around the house and street, an urgency in my mind about how it should look, but no way to move fast enough or with enough strength to accomplish this goal. “Baby steps,” as Scott would say. Picking one area to clean and seeing it through like taking a chainsaw to the fallen trees or pulling bait pens from the canal.
Helping our neighborhood, our friends and family who were more adversely affected, became not a question of “Do you think they need help,” but rather, “How fast can I work and move on to the next project.” Cleaning out refrigerators, shoveling gray mud out of houses, combing through debris to gather valuables all the while wondering, “Will life ever feel normal?”
Every conversation and greeting became, “How did your house make out? What can I do to help?” skipping the salutation and going straight in for a hug. Assuring each other with the unspoken words, “You’re not alone.” If nothing else, I hoped to be an ear, someone others could blow off steam to, yet I still felt helpless, unable to fix the bigger issues such as lack of housing or work.
September 20, 2017 – Jonathan spent the morning cleaning out the water meter boxes for each house on the block as we’d heard water service may be turned on for us today and sure enough, it was! The boil water advisory was still in effect, but without power we couldn’t, so relied heavily on bottled water.
Daily trips to Big Pine for ice and water became the norm as did cold showers since our hot water heater was found in the canal. It was quite refreshing as the heat and humidity in the house was overbearing. Needless to say, we didn’t spend much time indoors the first week back or the second or third. You get the idea.
I will never forget the day the Red Cross arrived. Perhaps I speak for others as well when I say the generosity brought me to tears on many occasion. The outpouring of assistance in the form of tools, cleaning supplies, food, clothing and more was beyond anything I could have imagined. They drove through neighborhoods delivering meals as well as set-up tents throughout the Keys giving residents cash cards.
I wish I could remember and thank all of the companies and relief organizations who came and spent time in the keys. Geico provided water while assessing auto damage on the spot, Verizon brought a satellite truck and provided free phones and WIFI inside their air conditioned tent, The Army Corps of Engineers applied blue tarps to those whose roofs were missing or leaking, The National Guard cleaned and hauled debris, Mormon Helping Hands also provided debris removal in teams of thirty or more people moving from street to street in selfless service, Billy Graham Ministries as well as Baptist relief organizations provided food, water, ice and more, The United Way provided gift cards for gasoline and building supplies plus many more.
We were also blessed with strangers who drove from the mainland and delivered supplies door-to-door through the neighborhoods stopping to ask what we needed and how they could help. We directed them to elderly neighbors or those we knew had lost their homes feeling fortunate to have a place to lay our heads each night.
That’s when I listened for the familiar sound of the tree frogs, yet without their favorite trees standing I knew it might be awhile before the familiar high pitched calls would make me sit up in the middle of the night and wonder, “Are they talking?”
Until then, I’ll wait.🌸
* PART 2: Hurricane Irma journal. *