This Post will Make me Sound like a Dirty Hippie: Thoughts in the Wake of Hurricane Irma
This isn’t remotely the post that I had planned to publish today, but since we’re sitting in the wake of a major hurricane, how could I not address the state of affairs in Florida? Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or knee deep in natural disasters somewhere else), you probably know that Hurricane Irma just barreled across the Caribbean Islands, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and finally the state of Florida – my home.
Most of the damage caused by Hurricane Irma happened across the state yesterday ( Sunday, 9/10/17) and this morning, so damage is still being surveyed. Even though I’ve been keeping up with the storm, it’s impossible to know the extent of the damage until we’ve had the luxury of a few days’ worth of clear weather.
Before I get too much further, I’d like to say that my husband, and our families, friends and I are all safe. Our friends are dealing with various degrees of property damage, but the house I grew up in and my husband’s parent’s homes are in really good shape. We were prepared and, honestly, we were just all pretty damn lucky.
My heart aches for my neighbors who can’t say the same thing. The images coming out of Key West, Miami, Naples, Jacksonville, etc. are more than enough to make me cry. Florida is where I grew up. My family lives in Tampa, Bradenton, and St. Petersburg – some of the places that were hit hardest by this latest massive storm. I spent the last week preparing, hearing of evacuation routes for my grandparents, wondering if other family members would need to evacuate as well, wondering if the house I grew up in was going to make it through this one, grieving because I thought I might never see my grandma’s house how I remembered it ever again. It wasn’t easy, and for many of my neighbors, it’s not going to get easier any time soon.
But if there is one silver lining that I always notice during natural disasters, it’s how they have a way of forcing us to realize what’s so fundamentally important to who we are as human beings – each other. Sure, I worried a ton about my family in South Florida. I worried about my dogs being comfortable if we were to lose power for multiple days (thankfully we still have power), I worried about the homes in Tallahassee – many of which were built prior to the strict building codes that came as a result of Hurricane Andrew. But that’s it. I knew as long as my husband, my family, and my dogs made it out okay, I’d come out of it with everything I needed. There’s the things you know you want to save – I packed up a box with our important documents, medicine, stuff for the dogs, and a handful of our most cherished possessions, but I knew at the end of the day, I’d toss that box to the wind to save the people that I loved. And, although the circumstances surrounding that mindset are terrifying, that really is a beautiful thing.
We all, in these moments, realize that everything we own is just stuff. Sure, it would be amazing to save all of the photographs in your house or your wedding dress or whatever, but you know your family’s lives and getting the people you love to safety is what’s most important. For a brief moment, our houses and the stuff in them don’t matter and they don’t tie us down. That shirt that we can’t decide whether or not we want to donate doesn’t matter, our cars we love so much don’t matter, that sweet gadget we bought two years ago on Black Friday doesn’t matter. We are consumed by the scope of our humanity and our longing for togetherness – there is no possession that we’d choose to have over the lives of the people we love.
That’s the way it should be every day, all the time. But staring a hurricane in the face is a really good reminder.
My heart is with all of my neighbors across the state of Florida. I hope you and your families are safe and that home will feel like home again soon.
If you’re the praying type, say a prayer for Florida, but also know that prayer shouldn’t supersede action. And just to be clear, action doesn’t count as sitting on the couch, clutching your pearls while you watch disaster porn on the “news.” Action means doing your homework on Charity Watch and the Better Business Bureau and finding worthy disaster relief charities to donate to. It means reading up on all of the millions of peer-reviewed publications by climate scientists which explain through careful research, data analysis and, ya know, EVIDENCE, that if we continue on our current path of fossil fuel consumption, massive storms like this one will be our new normal. It’s buying sustainable seafood, electing government leaders who give a shit about our planet and not just the ways they can bleed our resources dry for the sake of lining their own pockets, it’s lending your neighbor that generator or helping them clear debris from their driveway, it’s giving someone whose car was totaled in the storm a ride to work.
We’re all in this together. I hope disasters like this one can inspire us to all start acting like it.