I returned to work after Hurricane Irma feeling a bit worse for wear but was humbled by hearing the experiences of others before I could garner any sympathy for myself. Poor me.
“Did you lose power?” I asked John, as I passed by his office on our first day back to work following the storm.
“How many hours?” I asked, knowing that colleague Sharon’s 36 hours without power overshadowed my measly 32 hours of suffering.
“I don’t know,” John responded.
“You don’t know? Unbelievable! I. Counted. Every. Single. Hour. How can you not know?”
“I don’t have power yet,” he said.
What’s more, John and his wife have well water, which only works when they have electricity, so they’ve been without water too.
My 32 powerless hours, 4 downed trees, 7 hours of lawn work, unknown hours of lost sleep due to Hurricane Irma’s onslaught Sunday night and the ecstasy of frogs in her wake the following night, and my lame half of peanut butter sandwich I was going to suffer for lunch paled in comparison to what others told me of their experiences. Between their sufferings and the Good Samaritans I encountered in Irma’s aftermath, I was humbled, not by the vastness of the storm’s power, but by the power of the human spirit.
A few days after the storm, my friend Connie told me she anticipated no power for several more days.
“It’s just an inconvenience,” she said, “and the only expense will be the food that spoiled. Nothing compared to what some people are dealing with.”
She followed that with this text:
It was time to don some rose-colored glasses myself and look back at my dear Irma experience.
My rosy view of Irma:
- I only lost power and the internet for 32 hours!
- While I lost four trees during the storm, none hit the house or cars or cats or people. (One branch took out a snake, but even that seemed to survive without injury.)
- During those seven hours of lawn work, the air was chilly and windy (because we started while still under tropical storm conditions), and the cold rain made the tepid shower I took later seem warm. (And I didn’t encounter the surviving snake.)
- I now have waterfront property — albeit a pond filled with rain runoff and little bitty frogs with Great. Big. Mouths. That. Never. Stop. Croaking. Loudly. (Oh, snake, I have a job for you…)
- And I got three unexpected days off from work — which allowed me to prepare for Irma, pray (instead of sleep) during Irma, and pick up after Irma. (Seriously, thank you, Governor Rick Scott, for making that call.)
My rosy view of others:
In addition to my self-absorbed, yet rosy experience of Irma, I saw people being anything but self-absorbed during the aftermath of the storm. The local radio stations talked through the nights and days before, during, and following Irma, sharing information via my battery-operated radio. Radio was my lifeline to the outside world, because I could no longer access it via TV, computer or cell phone. Their voices were a comfort.
The DJs invited people to call, and they did. Callers in need of gas, water, ice, power, open restaurants. Callers who shared where people could find them. Officials from power companies and the DOT giving answers to whens, whys, and whats. People offering to share their generators once they had power restored. The DJs from different stations joined together to share the load around the clock, offering sympathy and advice, connecting people, simply being a voice in the scary darkness.
My health club opened its showers to those without power; no membership needed. It reached out to members with a list of supplies needed to fill two U-Haul trucks destined for the Florida Keys.
One next-door neighbor allowed us to park our two vehicles in her empty garage to keep them safe from the storm.
This man, pictured below, stopped his car and then took to my street with a blower. He spent more than a half hour blowing debris from our paved path, asking for neither fame nor fortune. (But I’m making him blog famous anyway!)
Later, three men in a truck stopped at my next-door neighbor’s house and took their chainsaws to the huge oak tree that had fallen across his driveway. I popped over to see if they were a legit business (so I could hire them) or just friends of my neighbor Carl.
“We don’t even know Carl,” one of the three told me. “We just saw this tree blocking his driveway and thought we’d help.”
I ran to get a smartphone so I could shoot a photo of the three at work, but they were gone before I returned. I shot the evidence instead.
Of course, I had my own Good Samaritans close to home, my husband and my children. My husband, who both drove me crazy and kept me sane during the storm, and my children who dealt with us tottering old folks by providing paneling for our windows and joining in the clean-up process all day Monday.
I could offer my sons nothing but cheese, crackers, grapes, and cold water, served on a trash can with love.
Images, compliments of Irma, prior to our cleanup:
This was the debris from just the front yard:
In truth, though we felt the fear and what we thought was the fury of Irma, we experienced just a hint of what our fellow Floridians and those in the Caribbean Islands suffered. I don’t need rose-tinted glasses to recognize that.
All of Irma’s power and the lack of power she left behind is nothing compared to the power of the human spirit I saw demonstrated around me.