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One Week Later . . .

Today marks one week since my hometown was decimated by Hurricane Michael.

I’m still in disbelief that this happened; seven days hasn’t dulled the shock.  I, along with everyone I know, keep asking if this is real.

Y’all, can I just say that is as real as the device that you are reading this from.

One week later, my town is picking up the pieces . . . literally and figuratively.

The streets may be looking a little cleaner, but the devastation wrought by the storm hasn’t been cleared away.

One week later, tens of thousands of homes are still without power, water, and sewer.  Roofs still haven’t been tarped, gas is still nearly impossible to find, people are being kicked out of their homes because they can’t pay the rent, and reliable communication is still sketchy..

Although I haven’t been watching the news, I have been keeping up with things through social media.  From what I’ve heard, though, the media has started backing off; more “pressing” interest stories have taken the place of what was one of the most crippling storms in history.

One week later, progress is being made, but the going has been extremely slow.  Water is slowly coming back, but it’s unsafe to drink.  Lynn Haven residents are being advised to refrain from showering because the system isn’t fully operational yet.  The sewage system is still being repaired; toilet flushing is being discouraged except for emergency situations.

One week later, the school district continues to assess the condition of the schools as it formulates a plan to begin educating our children.  The magnitude of this task is something that hasn’t been undertaken since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.  How do you provide such services when fewer than a third of your schools are structurally intact?  It’s a daunting task with many roadblocks.

In the week that has passed, we have seen the best and the worst of humanity.  I’ve read countless stories of complete strangers helping others.  I’ve got friends who have taken their own chainsaws and helped people clear trees from their homes.  I’ve also read of fraudulent companies rushing in to take advantage of the downtrodden, of looters stealing purses from the sleeping arms of mamas, and of price gauging for essential items.  I shouldn’t be surprised, but the eternal optimist in me is still sad and disappointed.

One week later, I’m still meeting people who have no clue just how dire it is back home.  Every time someone finds out that I’m from Lynn Haven, they ask me questions, and they are completely shocked by how desperate the situation is . . . how even the simplest of tasks is nearly impossible to complete.

Have you washed your clothes in the past seven days?  Did you put ice in your drink?  I’ll bet that you slept in air conditioning and under a fan.  Did you gas up your car and run to the grocery store, return home, and prepare a hot meal?

These are luxuries that the folks in my town haven’t enjoyed since the early hours of October 10th.  Some people still don’t know when they’ll be able to return to seemingly “mundane” tasks again.

One week later, we are giving thanks that so many people lived through what was the scariest experience of their lives.  We are grateful for the charities that have stepped in to provide food, water, and other necessities.  We are stronger because we are walking through this together – the sense of community has grown exponentially.

One week later, I find myself missing my students more than I ever thought I would.  Our daily check-ins bring a smile to my face as they not only confirm that they are okay but as they inquire about my welfare.  These kids have been asked to endure one of the hardest things they will ever go through, and they are coming out of it stronger, more mature, and with a keen awareness of how precious life is.

I’m so disappointed in myself for not recognizing the needs of other cities that have gone through this before.  I’ll forever be changed by this and will never take for granted the most basic of things in life.

My district has adopted a new motto:  Faith, Family, and Future.

As we lean into our faith, support each other as only family does, we look ahead to a bright future.

I will say this a thousand more times:  Please do not forget about us.

Please continue to pray.

Please support my little town along with the others affected . . . some you may have heard of and others you haven’t.

One week can seem like such a long time.  In reality, it’s only seven short days in what will be many numbers of days as we work to regain any kind of normalcy.

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