My family is presently stationed at Cherry Point, North Carolina which wasn’t in the direct path of the hurricane but the brunt of Florence was felt throughout our area. Thankfully, my family didn’t suffer much damage but riding out the storm and witnessing the aftermath was stressful and scary. It was a transformative experience in which I learned many life lessons.
Leading up to the storm, I was in prep mode, filling the cars with gas, stocking up on food and bottled water and double checking our insurance policies, but it didn’t seem to matter how prepared I was the fear and anxiety filled my thoughts. In the past, I have experienced stress-induced symptoms, and every time I logged into Facebook or checked the news, I felt those symptoms rushing back, tightness in my chest, sweaty palms, headaches and an overall feeling of dread. My husband is the cool-headed one in these heightened situations, and I was so grateful for his voice of reason which reminded me of the one true authority that could be trusted, everything else was just exaggerated noise meant to bolster ratings and insight panic. (Remember the reporter struggling against the raging winds as two teens walk freely behind him?)
The lessons I learned hit hard and fast, social media can be very dangerous, it can be misleading and downright wrong, so it should be viewed sparingly and cautiously. Social media is a great tool for connecting, marketing and to spread information, but can also be used for fear-mongering, division, and hate.
**I feel the need to add a disclaimer** Forces of nature, such as a hurricane, should always be taken seriously and when mandatory evacuations are issued, everyone in the area should heed the warnings!
The grass isn’t always greener
We PCSed a year ago and went through the home buying process while still overseas (You really can buy anything online these days). In the year since we purchased our home, we have begun to notice every flaw in our new home, which made it all too easy to look enviously at nearby homes currently on the market. In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Florence, a drive through our neighborhood showed devastation, trees crushing home, flood waters breaching doorways and apartment buildings nearly submerged in water, one home was completely desolated by a fire during the storm. Our street was just a few blocks away from the devastating flooding waters but our house stayed dry. Our new home may have several flaws but it protected our family, kept us safe, standing strong and sturdy during the storm. I was very humbled and grateful for our little home.
The lesson I learned is that we’re where we are for a reason. We might not always see the big picture, but we’re right where we need to be, and don't wish for what others have. It's not what you need, and it's not your journey.
I witnessed my community come together in an amazing way. Those with significant damage to their homes ran to help neighbors clean up and begin to repair the destruction. I saw people sharing food, clothing, medical supplies and generators with those in need. Businesses were eager to feed the community, not accepting a dime from patrons.
The lesson I learned was even in the midst of a personal tragedy, there’s always a way to help your neighbor and by helping others, we can begin to heal.
This too shall pass
It took nearly two weeks for power to be restored, and now months out from the storm the streets are still stacked with tree debris and water-damaged furniture. It serves as a reminder of the devastation our community experienced and that we are still in the healing process. To an outsider, it may look like we’ve been destroyed and are stuck in tragedy, but that is not the case. We are working hard to recover, repair and rebuild!
The lesson I learned was everything passes with time. My community has come quite a long way from the day Florence entered our town. We are strong and resilient and will make it through this time.
Life can sometimes throw a curve ball, it may be a storm, a lost job or an unexpected illness but all things can be overcome when we are surrounded by a strong community, family and friends. You may be in the midst of a difficult time in your life, just remember you will get through it and come out stronger and wiser!
Since the Hurricane, our nation has endured more devastation with wildfires, floods, and earthquakes. Our hearts are with those affected by these natural disasters, and we hope we can give some hope during recovery.
Written by: Zaneta Padilla