Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the month “September, 2018”

After Florence – Been There Done That

It is hard to fathom having to deal with such a severe weather event for as long of a period of time, even when it is scattered across many states as it progresses.  But Hurricane Florence has proven to be even more extreme than that, practically hovering over the states of North and South Carolinas for over three days already.  The media footage as well as photos posted on social media are nothing less than powerful to see.  And if you have ever gone through an initial impact of a hurricane, within the path of the eye of the hurricane or not, it is not an experience you will ever forget.

“Paul’s Heart” crosses over many ways between my world of cancer, adoption, medical rights, family, and such.  And right now, many of my fellow cancer survivors, as well as long time friends, are dealing with Florence right now, and will for some time.  But if there is one thing my fellow cancer survivors rely on me for, it is for my encouragement that I can provide based on what I have been through, and to believe, that things will get better.  More importantly, it will take time.  There is no such thing as an “overnight” cure.

By now, the preparation for the storm is long over, from evacuations to just hunkering down.  People are now in the “enduring” stage.  This is a frightening enough stage because most likely, many are without power.  And without any kind of “cell” coverage, may not know the timeline of when this storm will eventually be done.

My hopes, are that everyone who remained, are surrounded by friends and family, supporting each other.  It is during this time that we really appreciate the conveniences of home, because for us, we no longer have those conveniences.  During the storm, you rely on your resources that you gathered to get through the storm.  No cooking.  No watching TV.  No light once darkness comes.

The hardest part will be yet to come however, and that is when the storm has passed.  The city or town you have always known has been decimated.  You now truly know what it is like to start from the beginning.  The good part about this, is that you can see the daily progress being made in recovery efforts.  Patience will be tested as you wait for electricity, shelves to be stocked in grocery stores for even the most necessary items such as ice, water, and bread, but remember, perishable items in stores will have to be replaced and it will take time to restore that normalcy.  And of course, the clean up will be immense.

But safety must still remain your focus.  Water will not be safe as it is likely water treatment facilities have been compromised with bacteria laden sewage from the immense flooding.  Power lines will still be submerged.  With the ground so saturated, it will take nothing for more trees to fall with even the slightest breeze.  Of course there will be that curiosity to get out and look at the destruction.  But it is completely different once the sun has set, and there is no lighting from buildings and streets to guide you.  And forget about being able to see water on the roadway as you approach a flooded situation.

There will also be those who evacuated.  It may be days, or even weeks before you can return, or even be allowed to return.  But you need to understand, just as I warned many of my friends last year, though their homes may have been spared, or had minor damage, there was nothing here in the immediate aftermath for them.  We no longer had luxuries.  Hardly anything was open for business and anything that was able to open, was mobbed as soon as word got out.

Just as those of us got the gradual improvements being made from nothing, it is a different story for those who return some time after the storm has passed.  The shock of the damage seen can be overwhelming.

The important thing following an event like this, whether you stayed or evacuated, is to have patience with each other.  First responders will do all they can.  Local governments will do everything they possibly can to establish some sort of normalcy.  Clean up will take a long time, months, many months.  And damage, that will take a long time to repair, as my building itself is only now having its roof repaired from Irma last year.  Life will return to a sense of normal activity.  But going through a storm like this one, or others, will always leave you with an appreciation for what you have, and what is important to you.

Hurricane Monday Morning Quarterbacks

“Those people are fools if they don’t evacuate!”

A very easy comment for people to make, when you are not personally affected by any extreme event such as a fire, or as the people along the southeastern seaboard are facing, a major hurricane.

I used to be one of those who frequently made a comment like the one above from the safety of my home, fairly inland geographically, protected from opportunities of brush fires, earth quakes, and direct hits of hurricanes.

But last year, that mentality changed for me.  For the first time in three years that I lived in Florida, I was finally facing the possibility of dealing with a major hurricane.

The order to evacuate, and the decision to disobey the order if made mandatory, is not an easy one for most to make.  Sure, you will have your morons who just want the thrill.  But there are many who do not have the choice.  And now, having survived “Irmageddon” (Hurricane Irma) last year, I now have two different perspectives on how any why someone may be faced, literally, with a life or death decision.

The Path Of The Storm

Just as with Irma last year, the exact path of Florence appears headed for the Carolina coastline, and possibly Virginia.  And that is where the warnings are.  For us with Irma, officials could not determine, if the east coast of Florida was going to get hit, the west coast, or possibly even miss us.  And the fact is, the direction was not known until the day before.  And because Florida is a “vertical” state, running south to north, those that chose to evacuate headed north, but found many obstacles along the way, with the most concerning, once the path of Irma was set on Florida, so was its path, straight up the middle.  Evacuees found themselves racing the hurricane north into Georgia, further into Tennessee.  The question was, “how far north did they need to go to avoid the storm?”

And so, it appears Florence has done the same thing.  Appearing to be steering towards North Caroline, evacuees fleeing south, the storm is now predicted to turn southern as it approaches land, and travel south.

So much uncertainty to deal with, and for many, limited resources, especially financially.

Limited Supplies

As anyone who has gone through a hurricane will tell you, supplies disappear as soon a the first statement of landfall is announced.  Gas runs out.  Water and bread disappear off the shelves at grocery stores.  And people begin to prepare to secure their homes with their storm shutters.

Desperation begins to set in to find supplies, especially gasoline for cars and generators.  People begin to travel further from the area affected, now depleting suppliers who where not only not expecting the rush, they were not prepared.  And their supplies would soon run low or empty.

Racing The Storm

For those who did evacuate from Irma last year, all told the same story.  No gas.  No hotels.  People were booking hotels in northern Florida, realizing that they would not be out of harms way, made reservations further north, but never releasing the southern reservations.  So those fleeing, only saw booked hotels, in spite of having vacancies.  And if you had nowhere to stay, and ran out of gas, you were sitting, waiting to die in a major hurricane.

Preparation And Acceptance

All that any of us could do, if we had no ability to evacuate, was secure ourselves and our residences.  There were shelters available, but for those who have never experienced this type of event, we soon found ourselves unable to “reserve” or apply to stay in a shelter.  And shelters filled very quickly to capacity.

For me, I relied on storm shutters, hoping to survive the storm surge of water.  I did everything I could to make sure that I had supplies from water to batteries (for flashlights and a transistor radio), and of course food rations.  I had not idea what life would be like afterwards.

But one factor that people do need to keep in mind.  First responders have no chance to save your life while in the middle of the storm.  Heart attack, you die.  Problem pregnancy, good luck.  No one will be able to help you.  Live in an apartment building, emergency personnel cannot get to upper floors with a stretcher with no power to operate the elevator.

You make the decision to stay, you know these risks.  And though it may sound like hyperbole, when officials issue warnings to give “next of kin information” to officials, it is quite real.

The Return Home

If this is the first time you are going through something like this, you do not really think about how long it may take to get back home after you evacuate.  And the truth is, it could be quite a while.  Not only may roads not be passible, but supplies take days to arrive, and power could take weeks.  There is nothing to come back to during this time.

Sure, there is the rush to see the damage.  But let me tell you, it is impossible to describe the feelings from the sights of the devastation.  But there is also the want to begin to clean up and rebuild.  Perhaps to get the jump on reporting to the insurance companies is another consideration.  There is a want to return back to normal.

And then, if this is your second go-round with a hurricane, you now have an idea of just how much it costs to evacuate, especially when it is long term, like weeks.  You have to pay for gas, hotels, food, and still pay your monthly bills.

When There Is No Choice

I had no choice.  I had nowhere to go.  I did not have the resources to leave.

There were a lot of factors that went into my decision.  I made all the preparations that I could, and I believed them to be the correct ones for me.  I notified my family of my decisions, and stated what I had done, to not only make it through the hurricane, but how I would communicate, when I could communicate.  I made sure that my family was comforted during the storm.

Which is why I say, before judging those who do not evacuate, not everyone is a just a thrill seeker for this type of emergency.  The majority simply may not have a choice.  But it is much easier to make these decisions from afar.

September 11, 2001 – 17 Years Later

Unlike history class where we studied the many events in our country’s past that we could not really relate to, other than lessons and conversations we had with those who were actually there, September 11, 2001 will never be forgotten for my generation, and those before us.

But for those of us with children born after 2001, the importance of making sure that our children know the true meaning why this date is such a somber date to remember in our history.

Both of my daughters were born after terrorists attacked our country, on our own soil.  They have only been told what I was doing that morning, when I saw the news.  My daughters know that there are two people in my life directly, who suffered the tragic loss of a family member who perished in the attacks on New York City.  They may not remember all the conversations that we have had over the years, as each anniversary passes (they are teenagers after all), but there are conversations that we still  have with each other, that I do not want them to forget.

Many people perished that day, whether in the planes that crashed, from the devastation of the collapsed buildings, or from the lingering effects following the times after that day.

This act was perpetrated by an idea, an extreme idea.  That an entire religion is not to blame for this attack, but rather a section of those who claim that religion, who took their beliefs to such a horrific level of terror.  The truth is, all religions have some history of violence.  But it is those who take their religion to such an extreme level that were behind this horror.

But if there is any good that can be told of this date, is that for a period of time, our country put aside our differences with each other, with the world, and came together.  People from all over came to New York City to help.  Enlistment in our armed forces increased because so many wanted to do their part to find those responsible.

Today, our country may never be more divided by politics and race (there are more things that divide us, but these are the top two)  We should not need a national tragedy of such magnitude to make us put down our hatred.  Once that hatred was put down, it should never be picked back up.  We have proven that we can get along then, we should be able to get along today.

Our lives have never been the same since that morning of September 11, 2001.  And while the majority of us have been able to move on with our lives, without suffering actual losses, there are still too many who remember this day, as if it were yesterday.

Never forget September 11, 2001

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