There are a lot of horrible things in this world that can be well prepared for. Unfortunately, a natural disaster isn’t one of them. I didn’t become fully aware of this concept until I found myself 1,000 miles away from my home in Miami, Florida, sitting opposite a TV screen colored with weather maps and animated by news anchors telling me and the rest of America that a storm of “catastrophic,” and “disastrous,” magnitude was going to plow through the roads I learned to drive on and the house I grew up in, and that my family lives in.
After seeing the devastation that Harvey caused to the people of Houston, South Floridians were paralyzed by what Irma was threatening them with.
I was paralyzed.
My family was not part of the estimated 6.3 million people ordered to evacuate, but they were part of the number of those forced to stay because of the heavy traffic leaving the state, the closed airports and the intimidating gas shortages.
Luckily, as Irma grew closer to the United States, it became apparent that South Florida would be spared from the the storm, and that the west coast of the state would take a hard and direct hit. The Florida Keys, a place that is so dear in the hearts of countless Floridians, were expected to suffer greatly.
The predictions upheld their weight, and after Irma passed, the destruction was crippling. It took only hours for the storm to travel the length of the state, and even now, much of Florida is still displaced, without power and in need of water and other essentials.
The parts and people of Florida that I know and love best came out unscathed. We were lucky this time, but so many others were not. The people of Houston will feel unfathomable pain Harvey has caused for a long time to come. Irma altered Florida forever, both in material and in spirit.
Natural disasters shake a population.
They’re so beyond the scope of what we can control. They threaten a world, and structures, and human beings that are already so fragile. They leave us entirely vulnerable, and at the mercy of their strength. But they don’t leave us helpless.
Not during their presence, and not in their wake. Although you can help by donating your time and money to relief efforts, you can also help by being a source of comfort and security to those directly in its path and to those who should’ve been there, but instead had to painfully watch from a distance, like me.
During the days leading up to and the day of Hurricane Irma, I checked on my family every ten minutes. I’m lucky to have friends here who checked on me every ten minutes. I was afraid, but I didn’t feel alone.
I don’t know what I would’ve done without their reassurance that no matter the category of the storm, or the wind speeds, everything would be okay.