Monday, October 10, 2016

Living on the Run

Life got crazy last week. We had a visit from a very unwelcome traveler named Matthew. I certainly hope everyone who was accosted by this bully is safe and well.

I've never had to pack in a hurry and adhere to a mandated evacuation announcement. Yes, we could have stayed. Many did. But we joined the 75% of Savannah residents that left. There were many reasons we left. A co-worker's daughter put it this way, "If there's even the slightest chance any of us could be hurt why would we stay?" My husband put it another: "Do you really want to live for an indeterminate number of days without electricity, water, functioning sewer system or means to cook the food that will go bad in the dead refrigerator?" Both of these were reasons enough to load the car and join the mass exodus on I-16.

My what big teeth you have! PS: the green dot is where I live.

When I was little, I heard about people not leaving during a hurricane. I thought it was rather foolish. OK, OK: stupid. Now that I live on the coast and have had the choice to leave or stay I understand. I didn't want to go. We didn't want to leave. We almost stayed despite the mandatory evacuation announcement. I mean, they couldn't come and force us to leave. But if something, anything, had happened to us (say, a giant oak tree had blown through our bunker of a house and crushed us) no one would have come to help. No. One. All First Responders were under orders NOT to go out in the Category 3 hurricane to save someone who decided to take a risk and fight Mother Nature's evil offspring. That, I must confess, was a bit disconcerting.

The reason people stay is primal. If I'm at home I'm safe. HOME is SAFE. Also, if I'm at home, I can protect it. Protect myself and my family. My castle = my defense. That's why people stay. Not because they're stubborn. Not because they're defiant. Because our homes are created to be buffers from the outside world. And no 115 mph wind is going to change our minds.

Still. We left. We got home around 2:30pm. We grabbed some clothes, several bags of food, a case of bottled water, and -

- and what?

What else do you take when the worst case scenario is that whatever you take is all you have left? That thought was shuddering. Frightening.

These are the things we carried:

- My husband's computer
- My laptop.
- A stack of my writing drafts and research that is not digitized and cannot be reproduced:

You know you're a writer when THIS is what is in your hurricane evacuation bag!

- A framed picture of our cat.
- A picture of my dad in uniform before he left for Vietnam.
- My copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

That's it. That last one surprised me. It's the only book I grabbed. I didn't dare look at the book shelves. How do you decide on one child over the others? It was too much. I was afraid if I looked at them I'd have a breakdown. We loaded up the car and left after I took a picture of the bookshelves and locked the door.

Honestly, I think the main reason I left them was to give me hope that all would be OK and we'd go back to an untouched home.

As I type, the sun is shining and all is peaceful in metro-Atlanta. We've seen pictures of ancient oaks uprooted and laying across the parks and streets. Bodies of our brave dead. Power is slowly being restored. Friends are OK. Tybee Island is still there and NONE of the homes were decimated. It is a miracle. 

And now, we wait. We wait to hear if they are letting residents back into the county. We wait to see if the streets leading to our house are re-opened. We wait. We wait. We wait. 

The waiting isn't really the hardest part, as the song says. It's the not knowing.

Yours Most Truly:

Hurricane Refugee


  1. It is a primal urge to remain in one's home. It's safe and familiar. But a mandatory evacuation is serious and you have to go.
    Glad to hear you'll return to a home. Might be some damage, but your place is still there.
    Matthew saved up all that damage until he hit our state...

  2. Oh, Jen. You brave soul. I love your list of items that you grabbed and your evacuation bag! Blessings to you as you re-enter the hurricane zone. It is disconcerting, to say the least.

  3. Oh wow! This must have been so hard for you. It only makes sense that one should leave a dangerous situation if they can, but leaving one's home behind, one's things that they identify their life ... that's tough. So glad you and yours are okay.

  4. I live on Florida's east coast, and we evacuated, too. Most of our car space went to my pets and the items they needed, but I managed to take a few books with me.

    We came back on Saturday, and it was a stressful trip because we didn't know what we were coming back to. Hope you find far less damage than you're expecting.

  5. Oh, Jen...
    I so know how you feel. I lived through FOUR major Hurricanes when I lived in Florida and thankfully we got through them pretty much unscathed. Lots of fallen trees, power out for a few weeks, that sort of thing, but nothing devastating. THANK GOD... I hope you return to your safe haven with nothing more than a few fallen branches...

  6. I lived in Savannah for ten months back in 2001-2002. It saddens me to think of those grand trees going down, but I'm glad it wasn't worse. Considering all the copies of Harry Potter out there in the world, I'm surprised you bothered to take yours! After kids and pets, I would grab my laptop and maybe some artwork.

  7. Why people stay - you explained it exactly. We've hunkered down during storms, riding them out, but I don't know what we would do if there was a mandatory evacuation. I hope we never have to find out.

    Please take care! Hang in there!

  8. Oh Jen, I can only imagine. We've been praying every night for everyone affected by the hurricane. We in the Orlando area, and blessedly, the Matthew veered east when it was passing our area, but we felt the threat. I'm hoping for you and we'll continue praying on your behalf, and all others who were uprooted. I'm glad you're safe.

  9. Hope things weren't too bad for you! My friend Ariel had to evacuate, too, and she said there's debris everywhere.


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