There’s an eerie feeling of anticipation hovering in the air in South Florida. Hurricane Irma, churning ferociously in the Caribbean, is predicted to possibly slam the southern-most parts of the state starting Friday night. Stores are packed with people emptying shelves of water and non-perishables while gas stations, running out of fuel early in the day, sit quiet as ghost towns by the evening. There’s an odd sense of camaraderie among all of us living in the expected impact zones, along with an urgency—even impatience—to grab what you can before the person next to you takes it all. People wish each other well while elbowing each other for cases of water.
Perhaps the oddest feeling of all is the calmness of the weather and the normalcy of life. A devastating storm is on the horizon, yet people are still sitting in the sun at Starbucks enjoying their lattes and stores are still stocking up for the next three major holidays. As much calamity as the Irma may bring, for now life goes on.
We are the lucky ones; my husband, daughter and I. We have an escape plan. Once we knew our stay was extended past August, we booked a trip to visit with my cousin and his family this weekend in Raleigh. As long as our plane can get out on Friday, we will be on our way out of the immediate path of the storm. I am thankful we have a plan, but I worry about the friends I’ve made down here who are still trying to figure out what to do.
We are the lucky ones. We have flights booked for the end of the month to head to our next assignment. No matter the damage, our life here is temporary. We will take what we can with us this weekend and pack the rest of our stuff into suitcases and store them in our bathroom, hoping they make it through. I pray for my friends and all the people who live here permanently and stand to have their entire lives turned upside down.
This is real. Florida may not be our permanent home, but it has been home to us for the last seven months. We’ve connected with many people who live here and have made friends about whom we care very much. Watching the devastation from afar is heart wrenching, but remote enough to say, “Well, I’m so glad it wasn’t me.” This time we can’t. This is real and as we watch the storm hit, we’ll be feeling it with the rest of South Florida. When we return after the storm has passed, we’ll see the damage through the eyes of those who have memories rooted in the area.
Hopefully the hurricane will change paths and move back out to sea, but until then our thoughts and prayers are with all of those who have been impacted and all those who may soon be at the mercy of the storm.