Thank you, Hurricane Florence

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“We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude” - Cynthia Ozick

The first major storm I lived through was Hurricane Isabel in September 2003. My family and I chose not to evacuate from the OBX, even though it was highly suggested. Our reason? Well there was a lack of finances, my mom was disabled and needed specific care, 3 cats, and really no where within the state to go, just to name a few. I remember we took pictures of all our belongings on disposable cameras for insurance purposes (I literally just threw all of these old pictures out when cleaning out the photo boxes), boarded up the windows, and hunkered down. I chose to stay at a friends house down the street, their family had a generator and were veteran storm survivors. And I couldn’t bear the thought of being trapped in my house without a friend for days on end.

Hurricane Isabel destroyed a lot of homes and businesses and brought some flooding,  but I honestly don’t remember much more than being out of school for a week.

Hurricane Flo is different. For one, I’m an adult now, so the excitement of being out of school is long gone. I no longer live on the beach. And this time, I am without parents to guide me in preparations for safety. Thankfully, my dad hammered home disaster preparedness since I was a little girl (thanks dad!). Prior to Hurricane Flo’s landfall, I had spare batteries, lanterns, shelf stable food, various beverages, pet food, baby wipes, etc. I charged up all my electronics and downloaded the necessary apps on my phone for safety and weather tracking purposes. Family and friends were notified and safety plans made, justtttt in case (you can only trust the weather channel so much, am I right?). I felt fairly content and ready to take on Flo, whatever she brought.

Well at least I was. Until I found my thoughts wandering to those who have nowhere to go or people who may lose their homes and all their belongings. What got me during this storm, that I’ve never experienced before, were the needs of others. Hurricane Flo brought my attention away from myself to those who fled the storm, and to people who were stuck in its path along the coast of North and South Carolina. I wanted to help.

On Thursday, my company sent out an email with urgent needs for mental health support at emergency shelters in Raleigh. Have you ever experienced that full body surge of emotion when witnessing or doing something? Where you just feel compelled and moved to act? Yeah, that was me. My eyes welled up with tears just reading the email. I wrestled with myself for mayyyybe 10 minutes, trying to rationalize any excuse to not drive the 15 minutes and volunteer my time. But I knew I had to go. It was the LEAST I could do. I replied back to the email, saying I’d take the first shift that night. For the rest of the evening, I spent time talking with evacuees from Jacksonville, NC. Jacksonville has been one of the hardest hit areas in our state, with major flooding and damages. Many of the people were happy to be out of harm's way, but were concerned about what they would return to. Would anything be left of their homes after the weekend?

Image from ABC11

Image from ABC11

I tell y’all, I have never been so humbled in my life. This storm has reminded me just how extremely blessed I am. My life is full of simple luxuries many people only dream of having. I left the shelter with such a sense of gratitude, thanking God the whole drive home. Hurricane Flo has reminded me what is truly important, and just how good I have it.

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One thing I want to point out, is many people are doing the best they can, with what they have. Being able to prepare for a hurricane fully, is a privilege. Being able to evacuate from a storm is a privilege. It takes money, transportation, mobility, knowledge, time, etc. Many of these individuals arrived at the shelter via bus, with only the belongings they could carry. This was a pet friendly shelter, so animals were allowed on site (thank God). But many people chose not to leave due to the uncertainty of their pets being allowed shelter also. A lot of individuals also had pretty serious health needs. They know the risks of staying, they know they are putting themselves in harm’s way. But many do not see any other choice. Put yourself in those shoes for just a moment. I like to think we all know what we’d do, but I know it’s because I have the privilege. I have a car in good condition, I have a credit card to buy gas, I have family and friends in other cities who are willing to house me and my pets. SO many of the people I spoke with had NONE of this. No where to go. no spare money, no transportation of their own, and no where to house their pets. So I ask you, please please please think about this before passing judgement on others who did not evacuate.

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Hurricane Florence also reminded me that the world is filled with far more helpers and good people than it sometimes seems. The Cajun Navy from Louisiana assisted in the rescue of hundreds of people and animals on the coast of NC. Linemen from all across the country drove in to assist with power outages. Restaurants across the state are offering free food or discounted food to first responders and linemen. Churches and local businesses are collecting items for those impacted by the storm. Individuals are stepping up, clearing shelters of hundreds of animals in less than 24 hours to make room for displaced animals in the aftermath of Flo.

I could go on and on. It’s incredible. I have never been more proud to call Raleigh home. As a city, Raleigh has always prioritized supporting the community, locally and across the state. We have shown that we are able and willing to step up in the face of disaster and help one another. Individuals and businesses, small and large, are offering hurricane relief of some kind. We are truly acting on the phrase “love thy neighbor” and doing anything we can to help. Logging on to Facebook or Instagram this weekend, I have been inundated with posts about where to donate items, a call for help at this location, or restaurants that promoting hurricane relief efforts. And I am loving it (queue the overwhelming, fully body emotions).

As of today, Hurricane Florence has claimed at least 15 lives. Thousands of people are still without power. Homes and businesses are destroyed. I am non stop praying that no more lives will be lost, big or small. Raleigh was sparred a majority of the damage and I am beyond grateful for it. Now I can give to those in need, knowing that if we had been hit harder, others would have come to help us, too. If you’re interested in helping out, I suggest checking with local businesses, churches, and nonprofits that assist with food and shelter services. From there, check your social media, as many of the requests are shared via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. I’ll be sure to share some ways to donate items or volunteer in the comments and on social media!

So this is a thank you. Thank you to everyone who has helped out in any way. Thank you to those who continue to help. Thank you Raleigh (and the greater Triangle) for being an amazing community and city. Thank you for loving others. Thank you Jesus, for all I have been blessed with in this life. And thank you, Hurricane Florence.

With love,

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