A year after Irma

How in the world has one year passed? Some days it feels like a lifetime ago, some days it feels like yesterday, but the flashbacks come always.

It is so difficult to put into words the feelings that flood me a year later and honestly, it’s still hard to suppress the PTSD when I sit down to reflect. There was so much lost that day and also so much to pray for. It still makes me angry when I hear people speak lightly of storms because they have no idea the weight of their words unto others. There are subtle reminders of that day and the aftermath constantly around me, most of which I’ve grown numb and immune to. However, there are a few things that always gives me a surge of feelings and emotions.

The airport. A focal point I drive past almost daily. The location of our evacuation. The spot where the hubs and my father dropped Lola and I off, not knowing when we would see them again. The spot where the Dutch marines barricaded us into lines to be evacuated. The place where cars were still on fire as we stood in line. The tarmac where luggage was taken from our hands and we were asked “Do you want your stuff or your life?” The tarmac we crossed where hot jet air pushed bodies around and singed skin. The military plane that brought us to safety and the men that told us “You’re safe now, welcome home.” The tears that streamed down my face.

Every time I drive by, unbeknownst to others in the car, I have every one of these thoughts. It’s a pain that I won’t be rid of until I’m gone from here and never have to see it again. Sometimes when it’s just Lola and I driving in the car, I surrender to myself and  let myself have the feelings instead of suppressing them and I allow myself to cry. Like super ugly cry, ya’ll.

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On board the military cargo plane for evacuation.

Lola’s handmade, cross back top. We had the clothes on our back and that’s it when we left the island. Upon our arrival the people of Puerto Rico stopped everything to help us. They donated clothes, baby supplies, toiletries, everything you can imagine. They flooded us with a warmth and hospitality that I will forever remember, all the while they had Hurricane Maria barreling towards them, yet they still continued to stop at nothing to help us. Among the children’s clothes was a beautiful, delicate handmade top with flowers and the word ‘Cuba’ stitched at the bottom. I thought it was perfect for my sweet Lola, but I never thought about the ramifications that sweet top would have on me.

She is oblivious but my stomach drops each time I see it and put it on her. She calls it her “flowerdy top” and I put it on her almost once per week simply because I love what it means to me. For me, I see strength {in me and my family}, hospitality & generosity {from the good people of Puerto Rico}, beauty {from Cuba} and trust {in God and humanity}. Seeing my sweet daughter run around in her “flowerdy top” occasionally brings tears to my eyes because of everything it stands for, things I can barely put into words.

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Brushing my teeth. I know it sounds ridiculous. Why in the world would brushing my teeth abruptly bring back memories of a devestating hurricane and flood me with PTSD? Easy, we didn’t have running water for a week. When I brushed my teeth I had to use a water bottle to wet the brush and at that time running water felt like a first-world luxury. I won’t forget the moment I walked into the hotel room in Puerto Rico after being evacuated and just crying uncontrollably turning the water faucet on and off. Knowing that I had running water made me feel so privileged and blessed. Fast forward to now and I never allow the water to run while brushing my teeth. It seems like a ridiculous waste now and it makes me thankful that I even have running water.


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The day before Irma made landfall on St. Maarten

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the love and support I still feel I didn’t deserve from my friends at home. I had the most amazing support from one of my closest friends – calling the embassy, the school headquarters, literally anyone that would listen she was calling throughout the storm. She rallied my tribe in the states and sent more clothes and financial assistance to my little family than we ever deserved. She clothed us and made us feel whole again when we couldn’t face the outside world. She understood when I couldn’t even walk into Target because I was overwhelmed and literally got sick with PTSD and she Amazon’d it to me at the hotel so I didn’t have to step outside. I am forever indebted to her, for she saved me and pulled me from our wreckage. That is not forgetting the amazing tribe I have that flooded Lola with books, blankies, clothes and all things Moana. I truly have the best friends in the world.

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Following Irma, I quickly realized that there is a severe level of humility and also embarrassment when tragedy strikes. In no way did the hubs and I feel deserving of ‘charity’ or gifts. We had just left everything behind, yet we still didn’t see what the big deal was. We didn’t deserve anything. With all tragedy and hardship I choose to not forget or suppress the feelings of sadness or guilt {for accepting the gifts and donations}. I’m still ridiculously humbled and want to forever remember these emotions, channeling them into support for others.

On the flip side to all of this, without the experience of Irma we would not have been able to travel in Europe last fall. With the school doing a temporary relocation to England, Lola and I were able to travel around Europe for very cheap. It was an experience I will never forget. I loved everything about living in England {the parks, food delivery, hospitality, etc.} and we would have never experienced that if we had not had a hardship first. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason in order to mold and shape us into better versions of ourselves. With Irma I became more independent, stronger in the face of tragedy, humble and thankful – and that is how I choose to reflect upon my tragedy. I choose to see the good it brought out in others and upon my little family, making us better, stronger people.

-XO, the White Coat Wifey

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