After the Storm
Updated: Aug 28, 2020
Last night, Hurricane Laura made landfall on the Louisiana/Texas coast. Physically, I was 400 miles away from the storm. Mentally, I was there.
September 16, 2004, was the scariest night of my life; a night I didn’t think would ever end. It was the night Hurricane Ivan plowed ashore in Gulf Shores, Alabama, which put northwest Florida on the “bad” side of the storm.
Huddled in the hallway of my parent’s home in the stuffy darkness, for hours, we listened to the steady howling of the wind. The interior walls seemed to breathe. The house creaked and groaned. The changes in the pressure made my ears painfully pop. A small battery-operated radio was our connection to the world outside the boarded-up house. The familiar voices of the local television news anchors, while calm, painted a grim picture. They told of countless desperate calls to 911 for help; calls that could not be answered until the storm passed.
I cried and I prayed.
Finally, the winds settled down. At daybreak, we took the boards off the door and ventured out for a first look. My 4-year old niece’s response summed it up. She looked around, rubbed her eyes and exclaimed, “Whoa! What happened?” It looked like a war zone.
Due to bridge damage and blocked roads, it was two days before I could actually return to my home in the neighboring county. Thankfully, my neighbor had contacted me to let me know that two trees had fallen on my house, but there did not appear to be any structure damage.
As we navigated the backroads, I was not prepared for the sight of such widespread damage. Everywhere I looked there were trees uprooted. Debris-covered yards. Powerlines dangled from leaning power poles. Houses stripped of shingles. Curtains billowed through blown out windows.
Snarled traffic was sent into chaos as emergency vehicles blared their sirens, demanding us to clear the way. They were escorting a convoy of semi-trucks, brightly painted with the words “Corp of Engineers Disaster Emergency Operations Center.”
I cried. Ivan was the “big” one.
I sat in my house alone and overwhelmed. While I had minimal water damage inside from one of the fallen trees, I had no idea what to do…or where to even start with the repairs and yard cleanup.
And then the help came.
Out-of-state disaster-response volunteers showed up. They came to serve hot-meals. They came with chainsaws. They came with willing hands to work. They came with hope.
Hundreds of power company trucks came with lineman willing to work long hours in oppressive heat.
The National Guard came with meals-ready-to-eat, bottled water and ice.
The Corp of Engineers came with tarps and teams to cover roofs, at no cost.
Friends showed up.
Neighbors helped neighbors.
A sense of community emerged. A sense of community that was powerful and beautiful. A sense of community that, unless you experience it, you will never fully understand it.
Even now, as I type, my eyes are watering at the memories of the good that came out of Hurricane Ivan.
Daybreak this morning along the Louisiana/Texas coast brings the beginning of a hard season of clean-up and rebuilding. Recovery will be overwhelming, hard and long. Thankfully, help is already on the way. Disaster response volunteers, federal agencies, power companies and thousands of hands willing to work and serve. They come with food, chainsaws, supplies and hope.
Time will prove that out of the muck and mire, out of the ugly and hard, and in the midst of sweat and tears, indescribable good will emerge.
I know it.
And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” ~ Mark 12:30-31