Good morning! Its about 8am in sunny storm ravaged Central Florida. The sun is just beginning to stream through broken and battered trees. The shadows they lay look like dark skeletal remains on a battlefield.
We finally got power back about 3am this morning. For three days we’ve done without electricity, internet, communication. We were beginning to feel drained, doing our best to keep our spirits up, and minds distracted, but no matter what you do, you can’t hide your feelings from your partner. We could see worry in each other’s faces. No matter how many games of cribbage you play to keep your mind off the situation, you can still tell what the other one is thinking.
The storm hit Saturday night, harsh and wicked, like a brutal liar. It wasn’t supposed to even get this close, let alone come straight for us. Once the power was out, the winds whipped up worse than I have ever witnessed, nor heard, in any prophetic, apocalyptic language. You could hear the trees crunching, as though giants were slowly strolling through our town, breaking mighty oaks into splinters beneath their feet. We couldn’t see what was happening outside, our windows as barricaded as we could to keep any shattered glass out. We slept on the floor away from the windows….although I doubt either one of us actually slept.
By dawn the winds were heavy, but dying down. And like restless children on Christmas morning, we were anxious to take a peek and what surprises mother nature had left for us beneath a bunch of broken oaks. There were trees and limbs everywhere, covering roads, covering roofs, having torn down electrical lines. But, from what we could see, most homes in our neighborhood suffered very little damage.
We didn’t know if there was a boil water alert, so we just cracked open our jugs of water and started making coffee on a little butane burner I had bought at the Asian grocery, the sort you would find at an omelette station. That thing saved our lives. I discovered that none of our neighbors had anything to cook with, so I had pot after pot of coffee for anyone and everyone who needed it. Don’t ever look at a French Press as snobbish. I learned when living in the woods that all you needed to make coffee with it was hot water. No electricity required.
It was still too windy to do any clean up. The girls who live next door would gather limbs, carry them to the curb, only to have them blown back into the yard again. So we all spent the day on the staircases, getting to know each other, sharing with each other what we had, listening to the radio on the yarn truck for news and information about what was happening in the rest of town. But, by the end of the day, you could tell that the heat, the lack of sleep, and the heightened anxiety from the night before had just exhausted everyone. Phillip and I were in bed by nightfall, and simply could not sleep in the same bed. It was already 100 degrees at 8pm, and the last thing you wanted was another 100 degrees of heat sleeping next to you.
No one slept that night either. There is something about living in the city that is obvious: the constant murmur of white noise in the background. Traffic, jets, life….There was none of that. And it was eerie, unsettling. As though the world had gone vacant. There was no breeze, no slight rustle of movement through the trees. The air was stifling. Welcome to Florida, 1819.
I was up at 2am, knitting by candelight. Just me, my yarn and needles. On some days we call them distractions, on other days we call them necessities. I was without either. There was nothing to be watched, to be heard, to be seen from any device, or radio, or television. The gentle scraping of my bamboo size threes as the swept aside each other the only sound to be heard for miles. One day I’ll have to expand on that. I learned a lot that early morning. I learned an awful lot in the quiet.
By dawn I was up and out cleaning up around the building. I know some may say that it is the landlord’s duty, its her property. You may be right, but this is my home, so I want to take care of it and make it look nice.
I got over heated about three hours into it. No matter how much water I had drank, I was still just sweating out more fluid than I was bringing in. I came inside, where it was 10 degrees warmer and just placed my head under the sink and let the cool water flow over my nape. We realized without proper hydration, or a place to cool, this clean up effort was going to take days when done in slow intervals early in the morning.
So, Phillip set up our big umbrella for the yarn truck over the patio area. We plugged our little fan into the cigarette lighter, brought out our water, coffee and our little gas burning stove and set up shop, resting, me knitting up a possum, him crocheting a Strange Friend. Our hearts had started sinking upon hearing the news that the power could be out for at least a week. We both looked at each other and knew that our food wouldn’t last that long. Even if it didn’t, where would we buy it? Everyone, even commerce, was without power. You just brush that aside and hope it doesn’t take that long.
Throughout the day we were hearing more and more sirens, assuming that people in need were now being rescued. No, not at all. Idiocy had begun to run rampant in our town; self absorbed arrogance and a sense of importance earned by whatever degree had started ruling. Traffic had returned to normal. Don’t ask my why, there was nowhere to go, nothing had electricity……especially the traffic lights. And no one was following the rules about using it an intersection as a four way stop when the traffic light is out. No, they were just running through them, crashing stupidly into each other. People assuming that if they were on the larger road, the other roads had to wait for a break in traffic. Or, as we heard one man say on the radio, “If you’re not moving into the intersection by the time I get there, I’m blowing right through. What are waiting for???”
There is no gasoline anywhere. The gas trucks have to be escorted back into the city by armed military. People were getting that desperate only 2 days after the storm. Panicking again that they were going to run out of gas while driving around looking for food. If you had laughed off the storm as a “hey, I’m from Florida, this is just a CAT 1,” then you were beginning to realize you had underestimated the power of Mother Nature and had overestimated the predictions of the weather man.
So, every half hour you would hear the sound of a collision. Ten minutes after that, the sound of rescue sirens. We were stupid enough to take a walk up to the store. He was open, he had no power, I had no cash, so I don’t know what I was thinking. But, trying to get there, we stood at the intersection for a good 10 minutes waiting for them to realize pedestrians were waiting to cross….They could have cared less. They were only concerned with themselves. We crossed, were nearly hit and promptly decided to go home as quickly as possible. Later in the day, police began directing traffic at the larger intersections.
That day dragged on. Phillip and I both looked distraught….tired. Afraid of what was going to happen to our little business without the internet. Without power, we couldn’t make any money, and we were already struggling. It is true we are going to have to restock our food. What we had in the fridge is gone, but with a few sales in the shop, we can have it stocked again in no time.
We went to bed that night in the same bed, despite the heat. We needed to be near each other. Under the window we slept, under the gentle kiss of some hint of a breeze, holding each other’s hands, whispering words of consolation to each other. “We’ll get through this. Have faith….and keep trucking along….”
And finally, in the early hours of the morning the power came back on, every light blaring bright…..We both sighed, heard the A/C kick on and promptly slept longer than we had in nearly a week of pre, during, and post storm intensity.
Turning on the television this morning I was finally able to see video of how bad this area was actually hit, and how lucky we were, how TRULY lucky we were. Whatever problems I may face post hurricane can be met head on, those can be dealt with. I’m a determined and resilient man. But, others didn’t do so well in this storm. Their challenges are going to be a lot harder for them to cope with. Those challenges are going to require much more than determination. Those challenges are going to require the mercy of Mother Nature.
The internet isn’t quite back to speed, so I’m sorry this was so long. I can’t even get a large enough signal to upload what pics I have. It could be a good day or two before we’re able to go fully online. We get a weak signal, then it fades out again. So, I’m writing this to put up once we get a strong enough signal because we won’t be able to go to facebook or anything like that to say hello and such. Thank you all so much for all of thoughts and prayers. We’ve made it gallantly through the storm with each other and our home, which is a lot more than some people can say. Some people haven’t fared that well. So, keep them in your hearts.
Today I’m cleaning the hell out of our home, not only of the debris outside, but every crook and cranny of every corner. I had wanted to do it just before the storm to keep my mind occupied, but kept thinking, “All this cleaning for a building that may not be standing tomorrow.” Well it did stand, and we still have a home, and I’m going to clean it show how grateful I am to have it. I’ll be praying not that life will go back to normal, but that it will be better than it was before the storm. That’s what you do after a crisis. You make your life better than it was before the challenge.
We’ll get through this, by the grace of God, all of us.
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