When I awoke that fateful morning – five years ago today – I had no idea that my world was about to be completely blown apart.
Looking back, perhaps that was a good thing. Sometimes ignorance really is bliss.
I wonder why there’s no water, I said to a lady standing next to me in the grocery store.
Oh, people are stocking up. There’s some little storm out there – Charley, I think. But it’s supposed to hit north of here.
I shrugged my shoulders and went on my merry way. As a nearly lifelong Floridian, I was used to many hurricane “false alarms.”
It’s headed north of us, I assured our extended family the next day. Besides, it’s only a Category 1 or 2. No big deal.
About mid-morning, I called several friends who lived on the water, offering our home as a shelter if the storm did take an unexpected turn.
No, no! they all said. Nice of you to offer, but we’re staying put.
Late that morning, the storm had strengthened somewhat and it looked as if we might be getting some tropical storm conditions.
So my husband did what any prudent, responsible homeowner would do. He took our daughter and headed to 7-11 to stock up on Oreos.
Mike: If we’re without power and stuck at home, we at least need to have cookies.
A natural disaster of epic proportions was about to hit us (although we were still oblivious) and we were planning a slumber party.
This is when our story takes a very dark turn.
During Mike and Molly’s 7-11 run, the storm intensified into a ferocious Category 4 hurricane – and made a turn straight for us.
Our phone began to ring.
Hey, can we still come over? And can we bring our neighbors? How about our boat? And we have pets ….
Within two hours, fifteen adults and children and five animals transformed our humble home into a modern-day Noah’s Ark.
The winds picked up slowly, but Mother Nature soon let us know she wasn’t messing around.
We watched as our neighbors’ gazebo pulled apart and flew away.
Our pool cage lifted up off the ground and slammed into our pool.
Mike: I think I’m going to move away from the window now.
The kids went into the closets and the women barricaded themselves in the hallway with a mattress over the kitchen entryway.
The men were needed elsewhere. The winds – clocking at 170mph now – were about to burst our double doors wide open. If that happened, the roof would soon follow.
Quickly, they moved our couch in front of the doors and pushed against them with all their might.
I don’t know how much longer we can hold out, I heard our friend Jack yell. The roar of the storm was deafening.
Just then, a branch flew through one of our family room windows.
Water poured in through the outlets and light fixtures.
Then, just as suddenly as it began, it was over.
Even as a writer, words fail me as I try to describe what we witnessed when we walked outside. War zone. Utter destruction. Chaos. Nope. That really doesn’t cover it.
Usually, on this blog, I try to find the humor in even heavy situations. But even five years later, I just can’t find anything particularly funny about Hurricane Charley. In fact, this is the first time I’ve had enough distance from the trauma of the event to even write about it.
Mostly, in life, we live in the delusion that we are in control. That if we just do the right things, make the right choices, life will go our way. Our kids will turn out well.
Choices are within our control. Outcomes, however, are not. One day, we may watch as one of our darling children who we’ve loved and so carefully guided blindsides us with a storm we never saw coming. I’ve already experienced a few of those “parenting hurricanes.” I’m sure a few more will whip through my world before all is said and done.
It could get quite scary and depressing if I thought I had to weather the storms alone. But just as God helped us pick up the pieces after Charley, He will help our children rebuild their lives after their inevitable disasters, even those of their own making.
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28 (New Living Translation)