For just a few seconds. Try to put yourself in their places.
Try to imagine what they’re feeling.
Put yourself in their shoes.
In half an hour you’re going to be on the road. You’re going to be driving north. To where, you really don’t know. You don’t know where you’ll find a place to stay. Or when. Or how long. If you’ll be able to find gas for your car when you run out. Where you’ll find food. Or when your cash supply will run out.
You have no idea what your future holds. Whether you’ll have a job to return to. Whether your children will have a school to go back to. Or worse, if you’ll have anything left of your home to go back to.
You walk through each room, taking pictures, and wanting to take certain precious souvenirs and mementos with you, but there’s not enough room. All you can take is a few clothes, your medications, supplies for your kids and your pets, your Bible, and if you’re lucky, your laptop computer with hopefully all of your important information stored on it.
You pick up framed photos of long deceased family members and feel like you’re leaving them behind to fend for themselves. You pick up other photos and remember other happy times, weddings, birthday parties, and Christmas mornings lived and enjoyed in that house.
Will there ever be those opportunities again?
Will your neighbors and friends be back? Will you? Will there be anything to return to? So many unknowns. And it doesn’t make it easier knowing you’re not the only one in this predicament.
Your future is totally uncertain. But your main focus right now is protecting your life and the lives of your family.
So you go, locking the doors behind you, saying goodbye to the home which has been your shelter and your safe haven for so long. The tears well up and overflow as all of you drive away to what you hope will be safety.
But there are so many others out there in the path of this storm that are in more desperate circumstances than you are, some with no real choices, and some who decided to stay out of a sense of obligation to others.
The elderly couple whose family begged them to leave but they had nowhere and no way to go. He’s wheelchair bound and on oxygen, and both are insulin dependent. They’re praying the shelter they found will be safe and that they’ll have enough medication to last thru the storm, as well as refrigeration to keep it usable. And there are many, many more elderly families in this situation.
The hundreds or perhaps thousands of dialysis patients whose very lives depend on this life saving procedure several times a week. They cannot safely evacuate either, unless there is a dialysis center nearby with generators to run the equipment; and transportation to get there and back. And what if the dialysis center near them loses power or is destroyed?
The hundreds of pregnant moms-to-be who are ready to give birth at any time who have no idea what they’ll do or where they’ll go. Where will they be when labor starts? And who will help them? Some are bedridden from complications and/or who will require a C-section for a safe delivery. They’re terrified, and wonder if they and their new baby will make it through the storm.
The special needs parents whose children require feeding tubes, breathing equipment and/or other life sustaining equipment. Where can they go? And would they have the emergency equipment that’s needed?
There are the young military families stationed in various bases throughout the state. Many cannot leave because their country needs them there to help the storm victims. Some of the families were sent out, but many remain behind, scared of what is going to happen next.
There are the first responders who, out of a sense of duty to their jobs and the ones they’ve sworn to protect, chose to stay while sending their loved ones away. They wonder if they’ll make it through, and if they’ll be able to keep up with enormous workload they know will be ahead of them.
There are the medical personnel who volunteered to stay when their hospitals and clinic and treatment centers decided to remain open to help the desperately ill and injured. A wrong decision, you say? Would you think that if you were still there and needed such medical attention?
There are so many more examples, stories, scenarios. I cannot begin to imagine. We have friends and acquaintances there as well, in many different areas of the state. Some have evacuated, some were not able to for various reasons. And yes, we worry about all of them.
I’ve heard some people saying how this is like such and such disaster movie they saw, and how miraculously everything was ok at the end. They somehow think this is the same thing. Really?
This isn’t a movie. This is real life. There are no retakes, no scripts to follow. No hero coming in at the last minute and miraculously sending the storm away. These are people like you and me, not actors getting paid to look scared or injured. Not studio sets and computer graphics to mimic a catastrophic storm. Real lives will be lost, and real families torn apart. Real homes and businesses will be destroyed.
Yes, you can say, “I’d do this” or “I’d do that” or “I’m not scared of the storm” or even, “I’m going to just have a hurricane party and watch it from my balcony!” Right.
Try actually being there. In the midst of it all. Your ideas may change. Suddenly the statues you’re so offended by have very little significance to you any more. Names of buildings and schools aren’t really that important any more. The people whose lifestyles you condemn and want nothing to do with may be the people who help save your life.
Try to imagine, just for a few minutes today, as you go about your normal day, how these people are feeling. Over 19 million people are under hurricane warnings as I write this. Hundreds of thousands have and still are evacuating with similar thoughts such as I wrote in the beginning of this piece.
If you are one of them, my heart and prayers go out to you because I cannot do anything else. Like many others who are watching this unfold, there’s a heart wrenching feeling of helplessness that is indescribable. Yes, we are relieved it’s not us.
But what if it were? That possibility is always there. And it frightens me.
Please, to all of you affected. Be safe. You hopefully have your loved ones with you, and together you can survive this. Yes, it will most likely be a devastating return, but at least you will be alive to try and rebuild.
May God bless and protect all of you over these next few days and weeks, and yes, months.