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Four Weeks Later

Today marks four weeks since Hurricane Michael slammed my little corner of heaven.

I suspect that for most people around the country, the event was merely a blip on the news radar.  That is not the case for those of us who live here.

I think that people assume that once the electricity got restored, things would go back to normal.

I can definitely attest to the fact that we loathe that word now.  In fact, I want the word removed from the dictionary.

Life is still hard.

Each tiny step forward is accompanied by challenges that people don’t understand unless they’ve experienced something of this magnitude.

Sure, some of us can live in our homes.  We are the fortunate few.  Many people cannot.  Because of that, people have had to relocate.  Some went to the beach which, miraculously, escaped much of the hurricane’s wrath.  Others went to locations farther away.

Although this sounds like a simple solution, it’s not.  Traffic from the beach to town has increased by volumes, and it takes hours to cross the bridge.  This has made what was once a simple commute extraordinarily frustrating for those who work in town or have children who must attend school in another building because said children’s schools were damaged.

Can we talk about schools for a minute?  The first wave to reopen began on Monday.  The second group returns on Tuesday.  That’s when my school will start.  Four of the high schools are doing split schedules – sharing campuses with middle schools.  High school students will attend from 7am-12pm.  Middle school will take over the campuses from 1-6. One of the high schools is being used as a shelter to house hundreds who were displaced and simply have nowhere else to go.

Traffic has increased in town because of schools reopening (the flip side of the coin).

My school will be housed at the middle school that had its gym destroyed.  You might have seen the drone footage that was aired after the hurricane.  The classrooms received very minimal damage, if any, so they were fortunate.  These teachers have been incredible and have welcomed us into their rooms with open arms, empty file drawers, and spaces on their whiteboards for us to write agendas.  ❤

Not only are there challenges with getting kids to school; people going to and from work are also having issues.  I talked to a young man – an employee – at Ace Hardware last week.  He said that he used to live at the beach, but it was taking too long and costing too much money for gas to travel to work, so he moved.

Although some businesses have reopened, many have not, so the lines to purchase food and other necessities are extremely long.  To their credit, places like Walmart and Publix have handled the extra workload extremely well.  Kudos to them!

There aren’t a lot of restaurants open on this side of the bridge, so the places that are stay packed.  I went to Beef o’Brady’s on Saturday to watch the Auburn game, and it got more and more busy as the day wore on.

I did met some very nice Georgia fans.  I also wound up sitting next to a fan of the other school in Alabama.  Winning that game was sweet.  We need victories in all areas of our lives sometimes – just to take the load off for a little while.

By the evening games (I went back for dinner with the Mr.), there was a line of people waiting for seats.

They only took cash, which meant going to Publix to buy something cheap and get cash back.

Many of the banks in town aren’t open.  The ones that are can’t serve customers in their lobbies, so the drive-thru lines are long.

Most people still do not have internet.  In fact, I typed this on my laptop at a hotspot in Walmart’s parking lot.

Xfinity, which provides service to many customers here, hasn’t given anyone a timeline on when everything will be repaired.  I’ve heard everything from six weeks to three months.  That’s making it challenging for those who work from home or attend school.

What complicates the internet issue is that cell phone reception hasn’t been fully restored.  I will say that this is one area that is a little better than even a week ago, but it’s still challenging to do anything web-based.

No internet also means no cable for most of us.  Y’all, a person can only read so much and talk to one’s spouse for so long.  I know this sounds spoiled, but I’m just being honest.

Along with the challenges that we’ve faced, we’ve also been the recipients of many blessings.

I am meeting a lot of new-to-me teachers.  It’s interesting to see how our partner school does things.  We are sharing space and resources, which is such a wonderful example for the students we teach.  Their kids will be our kids soon; the bonds forged with these educators will continue to pay dividends for years to come.

People have been so generous during this time.  Donations are pouring in.  My own family, Super Sis, Coupon Queen, and even Sis’s husband have been shopping for clothes for my students.

A couple of days ago, a classmate of mine messaged me and said that his church in Auburn, Alabama, will be supporting my church for the next bit of time.  He was at a volunteer meeting when he learned of this and immediately thought of me.  Who would have thought that out of all the churches in the South (remember that we are the Bible Belt), this would happen?  I count this as a God-incidence.

I’ve seen evidence of God’s handiwork throughout.  My teacher-roomie is also a vegan.  He’s also very chill, which is what I need as the “visiting” teacher, and he’s completely let me do my thing in his classroom.

I would ask that you continue to support us with your prayers.  Recovering from a Category 5 (because that’s what it was) storm will be a years-long process.  Please do not forget about us even as we fade further and further into the background, overshadowed by the election and the holiday season.

Y’all, there are hurting people here.  There are people living in tents in the Home Depot and Walmart parking lots.  I’ve seen them with my own eyes.  There are teachers who are living with other teachers because their houses got destroyed.  I hugged a fellow teacher, a sweet lady who’s been in education for over thirty years, and listened as she cried on Monday.  She was overwhelmed by the number of tasks she’s facing.  Her sister lives with her, and she has to figure out what she can salvage and get it moved out so her house can be stripped bare.

While life for you may have moved on, it hasn’t for us.  We are physically and emotionally exhausted.

We’ve watched our possessions get dragged to the street and beloved trees get removed from our yards.

Four weeks later, we’ve learned more about insurance, demolition, and mitigation than we ever thought we would want to know.

I’ve learned how to buy a wheelbarrow (they aren’t all made the same)

The one I wound up buying!

I’ve also learned how to swing a sledgehammer.

Four weeks later, we are loving on each other a little bit more and digging down deep to serve others.  Hurricanes have a way of turning friends into family and strangers into friends.

Yes, it’s been tough.  Yet, four weeks later, we wake up, forget our challenges for a minute, and thank the Lord for each beautiful sunrise, which bespeaks of God’s promise to build us stronger than we were before.

When the sun drops each evening, we are sent on our way to Dream Land with gorgeous sunsets – snapshots of God’s grace that we might have missed before the fences and trees were taken away from us.


4 Responses

  1. every time you update, I cry (and I am NOT a crier). We haven’t forgotten you but I know it must seem like we have. Last week, one of our ministers drove a tiny house (that he made with his own hands) to Florida. His parents church (a UMC in Destin) filled the tiny house with things a person/family might need. Someone who lost everything will be housed there! I’m so glad y’all have figured out a way to share space for school. I can’t even imagine the traffic nightmare and long lines.

  2. My goodness friend… it is so easy to just think that life has gotten back to normal for you all. & how far away from normal it truly is is just heart breaking. But you all are toughing it out. APPLAUDING YOU ALL!!!! … you’re all going to come out of this so much stronger & tougher than you realized you ever were!!!

  3. Thank you for the update. Prayers continue to go up for y’all daily. It sounds like you all are learning how to cope and adapt in a bad situation. May God continue to bless and watch over y’all. (Those I’ve spoken to, who’ve been to help with cleanup in Fla. or SW Georgia say the devastation is unbelievable until you’ve seen it with your own eyes)

  4. It’s good to get your updates and see that progress is being made but it’s also hard to hear how tough things are for you right not. Hope going back to work and some sort of routine has helped and is going well.

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