This blog post is an honest, raw, and inside view of my ongoing experience as a Hurricane survivor. I am still processing my experience as I am without power, running water, and food so please bear with me as I share with you my experience…
09/05/2017 – I walked into work on Tuesday morning refreshed and eager to listen to clients’ story and to help them detox from their drug/alcohol addictions. As I walked past the common area making my way to my office, I over hear on the television Governor Rick Scott declare that Florida is in a State of Emergency. Being one who refuses to get cable television because I rather find other means to be productive with my time, I was baffled. I had no idea that a Hurricane was headed my way…
Growing up I loved playing a game called State of Emergency on my brother’s Xbox. I would have specific missions to complete amid people running around and screaming in a panic. This was the first image that came to my mind that morning. As the days became closer and closer to Irma’s arrival, life began to feel surreal as if in a video game. Lines at the gas station began to form around the corner, grocery stores had empty shelves, and an increase of accidents on the expressway.
09/06/2017 – Wednesday. I spent the morning glued to the television at work in shock along with my co-workers. Watching the catastrophe taking place in the Caribbean and Puerto Rico as Irma inched her way closer and closer to Florida. I felt so helpless. My co-workers were discussing their evacuation plans with friends and family. I had no plan. I had no family here. I had no place to run to for safety and shelter. I went into my office and shut door. I needed time to think. I needed to process. My friends and family in other states began to text and call me asking the same question, “What’s your plan?” I replied, “I don’t know…” I turned to making art to help ground myself.
I had so many thoughts running through my head:
“I should just stay”
“Where am I going to go?”
“How much money do I need?”
“Should I fly to Chicago or Colombia?”
“Maybe I should drive up to North Carolina”
“What if my apartment floods and I get trapped?”
The Governor officially announced, “A mandatory evacuation has been ordered for Broward County residents living east of Federal Highway and in low-lying areas effective Thursday.” I froze because I was officially out of time. My safe place was no longer safe. I endured Hurricane Mathew safely in my home in 2016, but I just couldn’t let go of the preoccupation of endangering myself again at a risk this high. I froze and my mouth dropped in awe as several state officials repeated over and over on the news, “If you are in an evacuation site during the hurricane and dial 911 in an emergency, we will not I repeat we will not come out to rescue you!”
I left work early, got gas and headed to the bank. I called my brother to help guide me through this process as I begin to panic. I had a little over $1,000 in my account and $825 of that was for my rent that I had just wrote a check for. I had just paid my student loans, car insurance, and bills for the first half of the month. “Should I take $400 cash and risk my check bouncing or pay my rent and come back to my apartment flooded and washed away?” My brother told me to take the money and worry about everything else later. He didn’t want me to be stranded or go hungry.
I looked up prices to escape Irma’s wrath and discovered quickly discovered what price gauging meant. Flying out was not optional. Driving out of state would’ve been a nightmare! A trip from my house to Orlando would be about 2 hours and 45 minutes but then was reported to take 7-8 hours with gridlock traffic!
I went home, parked my car and just sat there trying to organize my thoughts. My body was officially in flight or fight mode as I tried to plan my next steps. A very good friend of mine wanted to help me through this time. As stubborn as I am, I denied his request and just felt that I had to figure it out alone. I was desperate trying to reach out to the few connections I have made since moving to Florida from Chicago. I asked them what their plans were for the storm and to my surprise many were staying home. It’s interesting because there were two types of reactions: those who took the warning seriously and left the state or those who decided to stay home thinking that the hurricane wouldn’t be “that bad”. I texted my friend back and told him, “Okay, let’s do this, let’s find a place to go”.
Check-in next week as I continue my story…