I cautiously took my first few steps out of the bathroom that had given our family, all five of us and our animals, shelter for almost four agonizing hours. We huddled together listening to the fury of the storm as she barreled up our coast and across the state. Branches whipped our windows, siding and shingles slammed into the house as we waited in darkness. We had no way of connecting the terrifying sounds to a visual because we couldn’t see in our windowless refuge. I was left to wonder what would lay in wait for us in the aftermath of Irma’s wake.
Opening our front door and realizing it had become a portal to another dimension as I took in my first glance. Astonishment washed over me as I attempted to process the images of our newly transformed landscape. I was left baffled as I gave my best effort to put into words what I saw before me. My husband and I turned in each other’s direction, mouths agape.
Adrenaline surged through my body as I gazed out and took a moment to absorb what we had just endured. It could have been so much worse. I may have felt the wind shake our walls as it tried it’s best to pry off our roof. But it had failed. The roof was intact, miraculously, and our walls still upright. Badly beaten up, shaken to the foundation but still standing, much like us.
I may be looking at devastation literally at my doorstep but it was nowhere near what could have happened if our windows weren’t boarded, if one single nails pulled loose or even an extra whisper of wind snuck through any of the door frames. The gratitude that filled my soul was overwhelming. All that was irreplaceable to me was standing hand-in-hand with me on my front steps. We were together. We were still standing.
In the coming weeks we will begin the tedious task of rebuilding our home and our life, long after the media has lost interest and moved on to the next story. The devastation and loss extend beyond the downed power lines and 50 foot trees snapped like tooth picks, much deeper into each of us that survived this experience. Irma has changed the landscape of not only my beautiful city but of my priorities. It has carved reminders all around me as to what is truly important and opened my eyes to see the crowd of people in my life, though it is small, that have my back through anything. Those who came running to help without hesitation casted us in close to them. They became a net of safety and a well to which we drew our hope from when we were thirsty for it.
Through this experience I’ve come to realize that if my people are safe, I am safe. Regardless of what is happening around me I know that our strength and wealth is found in each other.