The New York Expereince of Hurricane Irma
Friday 9/8/17 . Two Days Before Hurricane
We biked early in the morning to get coffee since we needed to conserve the current fuel in our cars. In desperate need to be caffeinated since we had a sleepless night due to irma social media chaos. We got to main st. and every store either was boarded up with large ply wood or covered with sandbags. The town was very erie and deserted. It seemed as though 'the calm before the storm' as we all were hopeful for a plot twist in the forecast. I started feeling really uncomfortable, so I asked that we go home and prepare more, just in case. We got home and I saw this box I ordered from whateverthehell.com since at this point I was panicking about " How much more can I prepare for this hurricane?" I took the box and drove myself to the store to return it. I figured I needed every dollar and dime because the news, social media, my mom, my cousin said "this is going to devastate the state" If something catastrophic is going to happen, I need to have money, and I am going to be as prepared as possible. As I walked inside of the store I began thinking more deeply about when my girlfriend, told me the story about her experience during Katrina; she was caught in the storm while at tennis practice during her undergrad. Let's just say when she said that there was a tree that fell into her teammates car I was mortified, like an old lady I clutched my pearls out of fear.
I continued to daydream until I was startled by a old man staring at me from on the line as we made our way to checkout. He explained to me he was leaving town with his wife and shitzu. The pup sat in his bag on the child seat of the shopping cart as he placed his items on the counter. I guess he needed more (designer) shirts before the storm hit. Overwhelmed over the idea of hearing a negative statement about hurricane irma, but intrigued I asked:
"Why such a drastic decision?"
He explained " I was around when we (floridians) were effected by Hurricane Andrew. That was before your time, but we took refuge in our bathroom after one of our windows blasted through, during the eye of the storm."
Looking at him at this point, I smile... "
Oh wow!" thinking to myself*
"Awesome! You're comparing this storm to the 1992 hurricane that struck the state of Florida that was record breaking catastrophe, strongest in decades, and the costliest hurricane to make landfall anywhere in the United States until it was surpassed by Katrina in 2005...
Yeah, I did my research buddy!
But I was too stressed to say all that so I told him to "be safe," as he made his way to exit the store with his dog. All I could imagine at this point is him, his wife and Fee Fee (their dog), all preparing to leave in the morning on the road up north. Also my friend texted me to get water, gas and supplies because they are now very limited and updates increasingly putting people on the edge. I said to myself " WTH, do we do?"
With life going on and limited time between work as well as trying to get gas since I already was close to empty (way before anyone took IRMA serious ). When I get home to my surprise my girlfriend has made sure that we are stocked on everything water, canned food, a few avocados, batteries, flashlights etc. Thank GAWD!
I am grateful to have a partner that has been through this before
Saturday 9/9/17 . One Day Before Hurricane
$300.00 = Food, Water, Gas
So far, so good? No. So far, so expensive. We've spent every dime on aimlessly preparing and purchasing supplies needed for this unfortunate event. Water is sold out, like legit gone! We're depending now on delivery trucks to supply local stores, people are sitting on line for water and gas if there even is any left after handing them out to frantic customers.
Phone rings* moms calling:
Mom: " Tianna, what's going on? You should leave! I don't understand why you're still there. (sobbing)
Me: " Mom, the highways are packed with people as we speak, there is limited supplies available so it's just as much a big risk leaving and getting stuck without gas. We will have to go and take shelter. Why are you crying for?"
Mom: "Because I can, you're my child."
Me: "Alright mom, well that isn't helping... I'll contact you when I have more information. I have to go."
My girlfriend and I get into the car to head over to her parents house. Consumed in my mind I keep thinking "We need to leave" like a broken record playing in my head. I look over to my girlfriend and say "Why, don't we just leave?" At that moment I break down and start crying. Let me just say that I am not fond of crying, it's one of my unfavorable emotional states, as i'm not quite sure if i have an ugly crying face, or not. I don't look in the mirror much when i'm sobbing or in tears. It doesn't give me satisfaction. She knew I was scared and even more so bothered by the publics response to Irma hitting Florida.
We got to her mother's house, and there I felt a little at peace as she fed us and reassured me. Two hours in with CNN hurricane updates playing in the background on the television, my girlfriend's mother suggests that we check out the shelter since updates continued to get worse and there weren't many shelters accepting people with pets in the county area. She explained that we may need certain documentation for our animals and we should also know if and when they will stop accepting evacuees. At that very moment I get up, and I'm ready to go. I rush my girlfriend out the door and back into the car to head to Braden River High School to check it out myself. A few blocks from away from her mother's house was the high school. The National Guard stood outside while we walk up to the school passing all young, old, families, dogs etc standing to register themselves before the storm hits. We enter the lobby and make our way to the front of woman directing the line and evacuees to rooms.
As I asked if we would need to enter the school once we filled out the paper work on our personal and pet information, she explained "weren't holding any spaces and the max capacity is 2,000 and were already at 500." Hmmm Okay, a frantic New Yorker can do the math, by the time we got home to get ready packed our car and brought our animals .. everyone will flee and by tomorrow morning they will be full. With little to no compassion from the woman who seem to be running the show, (she seemed a bit annoyed at how this was my first rodeo, my partner grabs my hand to step off the line and she explained "We will be back tonight."
We spent two hours packing our lives away, packing in case we actually didn't have a home after all this, as well as our supplies and personal documents. My girlfriend's still calm as we put all our bags in the car, grab the dogs with both sitting on my lap as she drives us back to the high school in the middle of the night.
We registered our dogs who needed to be crated the entire time, in a separate building from where we were. Imagine a 20 + dogs in a room barking all at once, with different beds, and set feeding and walking times; all aggravated because the lack of rest, wanting to be freed and with their owners. It was sad, let's just say my eyes watered when I crated my two fur babies and walked back to our car to unload our things.
Rules and regulations to keep this in an orderly fashion. Lights out at 10:00 we enter into a dimly lit advanced english classroom to hear a snoring man in the corner on a twin blow up bed an older couple awake sitting on there sleeping bags who smiled at us on our way in. We head to a corner closes to an outlet and begin making our bed out of my yoga mat and a comforter. Not sure how well this will work sleeping on the floor. Assisting the room and our "new roommates" one last time before finally laying down and trying my best to rest from all this emotional strain.
Saturday 9/9/17 . One Day Before Hurricane
6:50 AM *people walking in*
"What time did you get here?" a voice I hear far away as I open my eyes and see a woman looking from over the desk that blocked us in the corner. I sit up confused and explain " We checked in last night, figured it would be filled by now."
"It is, there's a line outside, they are almost at capacity." she replied
*she continues to talk to the people she came in with*
As I lay in my handcrafted "sleeping bed" my back is killing me I'm over tired and I'm not sure why she woke me up. More people rush into the room and what was an empty class room last night of 6 was now full of 20 + people with sleeping bags and supplies sitting on the floor.
*Loud Speaker: "Good Morning, we will now be serving breakfast in the cafeteria. If you can please make your way in an orderly fashion, Thank you."*
My girlfriend' wakes up, I tell her to watch our things while I go to walk our dogs. Distressed since its clear my dogs are traumatized by the events unfolding my youngest pooped on herself (literally) while being crated and my eldest Zeus so distraught had little to no desire to eat or drink. After 45 mins longer of just our daily dog duties, Sparkles and Zeus were just overtired and even more worked up. I crate them with watery eyes and jet back to our room to tell my girlfriend that we need to get our inflatable bed because there wasn't anyway that we could possibly be able to sleep on the floor another night. We skip the cafeteria breakfast and I leave the school and head back home to get the bed, shower and head back. On my drive I see 12 U.S. Marshall trucks driving on the interstate in the same direction as I was going, completely mortified now feeling like things continue to become more scary. Once I arrive back at Braden River I help many of the new faces in the room with inflating their beds that they planned to lay on during the duration of there stay.
I met this woman who was soft spoken and sweet she spoke about her cats who she couldn't find because it was hiding when she was told that she would have to evacuate immediately from her mobil home. She spoke to me about being a flute player and her friend who owned a farm with a pop belly pig and horses. She expressed that she was there alone with her dog and how worried her children were about her safety. She was happy since she planned on moving soon to be closer to her family. At that moment I felt for this woman. Like, what if this woman was my mother. How scared and upset I would be if she had to go through something like this alone. It definitely isn't easy. At that moment I felt as though we bonded. Weather or not she agreed I felt like I needed to make sure she was okay for her kids.
By late afternoon I head back to check up on my dogs when I see one of young women that were in our room sobbing outside the long hall way by the bathrooms. When I was just about to past her by and leave her be in private. I stopped and kneeled down by her.
"Are you okay?" I asked
"No" she said very softly
"Well, neither am I. I'm not even originally from here -" she interjects
"All my family and I are from here. Plus, we have a house; like this is really bad!"
*still kneeled, quite I look at her*
" You have to keep it together my darling, during moments like this you must remain clam even when its hard. I'm worried about my personal things and home as well but nothing has happened yet. So before we declare this a "devastation", I still have hope and you should too."
*I touch her shoulder and smile*
As I walk out into the schools front yard I see the same woman from when we came to check out the place a day ago. As she seemed much nicer speaking to someone else she was registering , practically "showing them the place" I glance in her direction as she gave me a blank stare probably remembering how uninterested she was speaking to me when I first came in. I brush it off and head to do my daily dog routine. Day turns to night and as we've gotten more acquainted with our roommates. I decided sit outside a little, as I'm feeling more detached from the situation, wanting to be in my own bed, thinking about my family and feeling homesick. The winds were gusting, cell phone service was fuzzy and my heart was heavy. What an experience ...
Sunday 9/10/17 . Day of Hurricane Irma
*Loud Speaker: "Good Morning, we will now be serving breakfast in the cafeteria. We will be calling you by building so if can please come only if we call you up and do so in an orderly fashion. We will not run out of food. Also, lockdown will begin at 3:00 PM - that will be the last time we will be able to tend to your animals until 1:00PM tomorrow. Thank you."*
Restless my girlfriend and I sit up in our queen inflatable bed to make ourselves something to eat from our bag of supplies. Avocado cut in half , salsa in the center with chips. If not that then PB&J with wheat bread or organic canned soups, veg chili, chickpeas and beans. We made sure we were well prepared as many were not. We rarely went to the cafeteria unless for apple or orange juice. Unfortunately, If you were a vegetarian that didn't bring any food you would be eating jelly sandwiches for days as there were limited options. Now practically friends with all of our bunkmates now cracking jokes, sharing snacks and getting to know one another better we felt a little more comfortable with leaving our things for a short moment so we could take care our dogs together.
By this time, Sparkles had the runs and Zeus still would not eat. They're both extremely dirty after sitting in a cage with a sea of dogs around them who all seemed like they were struggling with hygiene and proper sleep. I clean my dogs the best I can as I sweat through the process of walking and embracing them as much as I could before we would lockdown.
We find a microwave in our classroom and many of us start warming up something to eat. The men in the room are streaming a football game while the rest of us try to remain distracted as we await Irma. My lovely friend offers to play us some hits on her flute and after that we start telling jokes around the room. As we laughed and cheered a lot together it grew late everyone looking up the forecast the seemed to gradually improve or at least in our favor for the better, it was lights out.
Monday 9/11/17 . The Aftermath of Hurricane Irma
*Loud Speaker: "Good Morning, we will be lifting the lockdown and you can tend to your animals this morning. But we will inform you when it is okay to leave the premises."*
I jump out of bed to see my dogs, we walk them together and I have never felt as grateful as I do today. The weather has cleared and there was a glimpse of sun. We crate our animals one last time and head back to our room to hear some great news "we can leave soon.". I immediately start packing our things and organizing as we were allowed to make trips to load our cars but not able to leave the property. Sweating non stop for days with no access to a shower and washing up in a sink it not fun. I couldn't express to you enough how ready we were all to go home shower, eat and sleep.
Once we were released we shoved everything into our car with our two dogs in hand. We drive past all the damage, debris in the road, billboards blown right off, street signs down, traffic lights out. In awe, we finally arrive home to see that our fence was ripped to shreds, our mailbox toppled over, heavy branches and leaves all throughout our yard. I rush inside as I'm now hoping that all my designer stuff that I shoved at the top of my closet for safekeeping was unharmed. To our surprise we still had electricity and no flooding. We all showered and bathed and rested for the rest of the two days in our home.
Tuesday 9/12/17 . The Conclusion
After Irma came through causing social media chaos, fleeing Floridans, flooding and damage ... we take this time to look at the positive side and say that it definitely has brought us together as a community. My partner, our two dogs and I were grateful to be sheltered at Braden River High School with some pretty awesome individuals. This storm created an amazing experience and perspective for many people... everyone of every race, socio-economic status, political / religious affiliation, sexual preference realized that for a time, we were all in the same boat working towards the same goals. Freedom to be safe, fed, positive, warm, dry, and uplifted in any ways needed. Slept in a room with 20 + people for 3 days. Not once did we feel uncomfortable or like we couldn't co exist with one another for any reason. Now that we're back into society, we will all go back home and continue on... but it's important to remember that we are all much more alike than we are different. This may be the beginning of 'a series of unfortunate events to come' so either we try as human beings to get it right, or we don't and we destroy ourselves.
There's only one thing that cuts across all our reality's and it's love. The bridge between all our differences, lets remember to show one another love and compassion.