Being a native Floridian and having experienced multiple hurricanes, Irma was by far my worst experience. I originally wanted to evacuate like everyone else but after listening to the news and meteorologists it was going to take a lot to leave by car and leaving by plane with the uncertainty of when we would return created way too many options. Located in Central Florida, I always have felt quite safe, but when I knew that Irma would take over our entire state and was not really sure where she would hit it led me to make the decision to stay at home and ride out the storm. We took several precautions with our safe room (bathroom) being made as comfortable as possible and thankfully. we did not have any damage to our home.
After having seen the news before Irma had made landfall in Florida, I realized the level of devastation she could create by viewing the aftermath in Barbuda, Cuba, Haiti, and the Caribbean Islands. I can tell you that Orlando did not see that level of devastation by any means. We were blessed that she was reduced to a Category 1 (almost 2). I could not imagine her coming in as 5. I pray for all the families affected by this storm as well as Hurricane Harvey.
I am grateful that this is finally over, but after it all had settled I wanted to remember the good that occurred. How family, friends, and neighbors joined together as we were all dealing with same fears and anxieties. Most of the neighbors in my community were not Native Floridians and most told me this was their first one!
After the storm is when things get real and you are faced without the normal conveniences of your previous life like power, cable, WIFI, etc. You are exhausted from the week of prepping and the anxiety that builds up from looking at the news that talks about it around the clock. You are constantly second guessing if you have enough supplies or enough food, gas and the long list of whatever else one needs to do to prepare better.
What I did see this time vs 2004 when Hurricane Charley hit was a banning together of the masses. Plain and simple, people helping people. I wanted to share a few of the good things that I personally experienced and share some of those stories which I heard about from social media.
- The community Barbecue. This was a suggestion of my neighbors who recently relocated from South Carolina. The husband loved to grill and since it was turning into 24 hours with no power the things in our freezers were beginning to melt and would soon go in to the garbage. This couple suggested that we bring all our food over and create a feast for everyone. We had fish, chicken, corn, hot dogs, broccoli and even grilled ravioli and the list of buffet items continued.
- Children came up with new games. There were soccer scrimmages to hide and seek.
- Neighbors banned together. There were people helping others move debris so it would not create any accidents.
- Everyone shared! Using social media allowed for us, as a group, to share with others in the Orlando area and send for help or ask someone who was closer and it was done fast! (i.e.. Extra ice or water which was not being used was given to others.)
- Medical professionals offered their services. When they knew it would not be possible for emergency help to come out during the storm they did the work.
Some other things from social media I thought was awesome was the story of:
- Royal Caribbean:https://www.yahoo.com/gma/royal-caribbean-sends-ship-help-174723844.html
- Local Businesses offered their services as a resource with FREE mini camps like this company. Here is one:
Mil’s Martial Arts lent its support to the community members affected by Hurricane IRMA by providing FREE 2-day Camp for children ages (5-12)
- Free sandbags via the City of Orlando.
- Free internet: https://www.orlandoweekly.com/Blogs/archives/2017/09/07/hurricane-irma-heres-where-to-find-free-internet-in-the-orlando-area
- Community Centers offered free childcare: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/weather/hurricane/os-hurricane-irma-child-care-orlando-20170913-story.html
The list goes on. The true heart and soul of the people in Florida were seen, felt and appreciated. I’m proud to be a Native Floridian and even if this happens again, I’ll continue to call this home and welcome others who miss that sense of warmth, community and brother and sisterhood. Look for the helpers in all moments of crisis. They’re there.