Lessons Learned and IRMA (Part Two)

We are back home, have been for almost two weeks. Have to say the way back was much better. There was still moderate traffic and we had a hard time getting reservations, but nothing too bad. I was grateful since I could not even contemplate driving back without a place to rest at the end of the day. We stayed in Pensacola and in Orlando.

We took three days and two nights. At the end of each day, we went out for a nice dinner and a drink. Early to bed to start fresh in the morning. There was gasoline most everywhere, so one less thing to worry about.

This time I drove longer to give my husband a break. Somehow we had less stuff to pack…..maybe because we had things to eat on our way up. There were dozens of Disaster Relief trucks, delivery trucks from different companies hauling food stuff and medicines and other necessities. There were also trucks from electrical companies from as far away as Maine, Illinois and Ohio. A welcome sight!!!

There were trees down, others completely bare of leaves, water puddled on the side of the roads, homes with tarps covering roofs. It was not a pretty sight, but it could have been worse. Considering what we were expecting, I would say Florida was spared…….not the Keys and South Florida, though.

These days back home getting back to normal have been a time of reflexion. This is what I have learned:

1- In so many ways my perception of people has changed. For the better and for the worse, as it happens. The sense of community and the help so generously offered have been amazing. There are so many instances of selflessness and true caring, we could write a book about it…and someone should!!! On the other hand, looting, road rage incidents, breaking into abandoned home and taking the few possessions left have rendered me speechless.

2- Our island suffered little, but still is not the same. We who live here can tell. I had envisioned us staying in our apartment on Brickell Key indefinitely. We love the island, we love the neighborhood. High water, downed trees, building materials everywhere, big traffic jams have made us think twice about staying.

3- Since construction in the area is only getting worse and storms like IRMA might keep coming, the area is just a major disaster waiting to happen. I do not believe our city and county government will stop giving permits to build higher and higher dwellings. Therefore, nothing will change that can make this neighborhood safer.

4- Life continues no matter what has happened to us. So you walk or drive around Miami and it seems everything is slowly getting back to normal. Nobody seems interested in the piles of branches, leaves, trees that are still to be picked up. In the news there is a mention here and there, but something else has taken the place of IRMA in the news.

5- It is not that I am insensitive to the other tragedies in the Caribbean, it’s that once something is out of sight is out of mind and the party continues. Until when are we going to ignore what is happening around us?

6- Last, but not least, I have learned that there are so many signs of what unite us, so many things that can bring us together, but we only notice when there is a tragedy. How sad!!!

Lessons Learned and IRMA (Part One)

Yes, we left Miami behind and with it,  “IRMA“. This was not an easy decision to make, but we now know it was the right one. Our apartment is as secured as we could make it, we followed all instructions…..but I am still worried.

We drove without stopping to rest until we left the Florida peninsula. The governor had lifted all tolls, so the Turnpike was a bumper-to-bumper, slow-going ride. At time we were going 8 to 10 miles an hour!!! We did not witness any incidents of road rage or major accidents. People, I am sure, were too involved in their own flight. It was more important to continue moving than to cause more delays.

Gasoline was available in all service stations. They were crazy, but we did not witness any altercations, everyone waited in line for gas or food or the bathroom. State troopers and police were on hand to make everything run smoothly. Still, it was incredible stressful and nerve-wrecking. An experience of a lifetime!!!

It took forever to get out of the Florida peninsula. Turning West, we found as many cars as there were cars moving North. We had reservations at a hotel in Pensacola, but never dreamed we would take that long. When we finally arrived, it was all we can do: take a hot shower and collapse……slept like logs. We got late check-out and after that we sat in the lobby still resting before moving on.

Drove to New Orleans, still encountering heavy traffic. Lots of cars with Florida licenses, I wondered if they had a place to stay along the way. Every hotel, motel and B&B along the way was full to capacity. It was strange to keep driving knowing we had no clue when we can get back home.

Thankfully, we had a special place to stay in the city. The daughter of a dear friend, family really, who opened her home to us. We had a lovely time and are so grateful!!! After that, we arrived in Houston, to spent time with our son. Here we are for the forseeable future…..a short time, we hope.

Now, here is what I learned from my first major hurricane experience:

1- Always plan to evacuate, even when you are securing your home and getting ready to stay. You never know what Mother Nature has in store, all weather forecasters can do is predict. That is not criticism, it’s a sad reality…. look what is happening in Jacksonville, never even mentioned when Irma was approaching Florida.

2- Once you have decided to leave or ordered to leave, plan on flying out. Do not even consider driving, unless you are young and healthy and full of energy. Trust me, evacuation by car is no picnic. You can be stuck for hours or days on the road. Now, if flying is not an option, please make reservations in hotels along the way, it will be impossible to just walk into any of them and get a room. Reservations can always be cancelled!!!

3- If you decide to stay, listen to all directives from authorities. If you don’t lose power, keep tract of the storm as it moves into your area, take cover when needed and make sure you have all you need with you when you do. This can safe your life, stuff in your home can be replaced!!!

4- There is nothing you can do once you have evacuated or decided to stay. Keep calm and relax, you have done all you can. You now have no control of the situation, only of your reaction to it. That will make the difference.

5- It is a sad truth, but I have now reaffirmed my belief that it is in dire situations when humanity is at its best. I cannot thank enough our family and friends who kept in touch, offered help and prayers and kept us hopeful. I saw calm and helpful folks on the road and service stations, people helping people…it was wonderful. Wish it was the same when times are happy!!!

Finally, I am certain that this experience will help me continue with my project to give away, throw away and donate things I really have no use for anymore. I am more convinced than ever that a simple lifestyle will be a happier lifestyle for me and my husband. At the end of the day, we are safe, we didn’t lose our home, we are healthy and grateful. We’ll see what our way back brings, what lessons will teach us and what we will find when we get back home.

P.S. Photo 1: view from my balcony…..Photo 2: my balcony, my happy place…hoping it has not been too badly battered.