Living through a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, any disaster in fact, is almost as stressful for those experiencing it directly as for distant family and friends. Having done both on several occasions, I’m not sure which is worse. For certain, the experience itself is not easily forgotten. I remember quite distinctly standing in a crib when I was a toddler and looking down at water on the floor during a hurricane in Jamaica.
After Irma and Maria hit the Virgin Islands recently, my stomach and my mind were in knots. I became involved in hourly, minutely communication through Facebook and Messenger. We all flirted with the worst outcome. Panicky notices screamed from neon-colored posts. For the first few days, I was unable to stay away from my computer for more than an hour, even if the fear of losing a loved one was exacerbated by the anxiety of everyone else pouring their dread onto Facebook. You’d think that since far fewer people die in a hurricane than an earthquake, we wouldn’t worry as much. But everyone did.
Then, two days after, the first short notices started arriving from residents who were able to get a signal on their phones from mountain tops. They tapped out reassuring messages.
“The Smith family from Whim is alive. House badly damaged.”
You could hear huge sighs of relief in the responses. And questions:
“Has anyone heard from Aunt Pearl living in Welcome?”
“I heard that looting has started downtown. Anyone know for sure?”
“Has the airport/post office opened?”
Thank God, I heard my daughter’s voice four days after the storm. I was vacuuming out my car at the car wash and here came a strange phone number – and a familiar voice. She was tense, I could tell, pretending to be casual. She was okay, she had food and water and a safe place to live. Three days later, she was much more relaxed, calling to say she had power, the first street on St. Croix to be connected. They turned on the fans, she said, as soon as the lights came on. It’s been sweltering, apparently.
So, I’m putting my angst into preparing a care package for whenever the post office reopens, probably not for a few weeks. But it looks like life as we know it will continue, both here and there, so far away. The two eyes have passed. The prayers have worked.