With devastation – Comes lessons learned

Coral Gables Counseling Center - Wednesday, September 27, 2017
By Emy Fernandez, MBA, Life Coach

As I sit here in my living room with my husband, balcony furniture, bottles of water, canned beans, nuts and fruit, waiting for Irma to hit, I can’t help but think back 25 years ago to Andrew. My kids, now 33, 30 and 27, at the time were 8, 5 and 2. We were hit hard – we were left without a roof, without windows, without electricity, without water and a flooded house – as were many other people, including many family and friends.

Hurricane Andrew

With the passage of time, I’ve forgotten some of the details of Andrew, however, there are a few things that I will never forget.

  • The first is running to my 2-year old son’s room when I heard windows breaking and grabbing him, then my daughters and running into my walk-in closet grabbing pillows and blankets on the way. In the closet we spent the duration of Andrew. When we walked out of the closet to check on the damage to the house, my son’s room got the worse hit, with large shards of glass and rocks on his bed and half of the roof gone. I remember just looking up (with a view to the sky) hugging my son and taking a minute to thank God.
  • The other is getting a visit from the office manager from the company I worked for at the time. He came with a truck full of food and water. He was visiting all the employees’ homes that were in need, delivering food and water and stopped at my house to make sure we were ok.
  • An additional memory that has kept coming back throughout the years is the day I was on my way to work, looked over to my left and amongst all the structural devastations, saw a home without walls. On the second floor there was a little girl’s pink room with a bed full of dolls and a toy box still intact. Everything else in the house was blown away. It broke my heart and to this day this image keeps coming back to me.
  • The final memory is how driving through neighborhoods you could see neighbors, regardless of the effects Andrew had on them, helping each other. There is one in particular that I remember – neighbors helping the wife of a first responder because he was out on the streets. Although Andrew brought loss to many, it also brought kindness and hope.

Hurricane Irma has hit us here in Miami, and as I once again sit in front of my computer, she is hitting the southwestern part of the US downgraded to a tropical storm, but still lashing out with high storm surge flooding.

Hurricane Irma

While I feel very lucky that my family and I did not sustain major damage, other than losing plants and trees, my heart goes out to those that have lost more than I. Yes, I am very thankful that we were not “in the cone”, but this means that others were.

Driving around on Monday checking on my family and doing some social media follow ups there are a few things that have stayed with me as I sit here, and which I’m sure I’ll continue to remember throughout the next 25 years. These are my initial thoughts:

  • I saw many trees down, roads blocked, power lines down, but there were also many police, firefighters, FPL trucks out there which meant they were not with their families. Kudos to those that work for Miami-Dade, FPL, Fire Department, Police Department and the media for helping us prepare, creating awareness and now keeping us safe and informed in the aftermath.
  • Friends I have not been in regular contact with, not only from Miami but also from across the US, reached out to check that my family and I were doing well. One of them, from California, even tried to keep me up to date with information as the hurricane was passing through.
  • Friends, family and neighbors working together moving trees and debris. In particular, my sister and brother-in-law, who never lost power, have been feeding 20 of us at their home the last couple of days.
  • Facebook interaction going from political discordance to people checking on the status of each other, including heartfelt concern for those that got a direct hit from Irma like the Caribbean Islands and the Florida Keys.

It hasn’t all been roses or a love fest. We’ve had lootings and we’ve had impatient drivers on the streets – but – as a community, we have been looking back at Andrew, remembering and telling ourselves it could have been a lot worse.

Hurricane Harvey

My final thought on Irma is that with all the divisiveness in America during the past year, hurricanes Harvey and Irma’s devastations have brought some unity and kindness from one side of America to the other. And, when the aftermaths have come to a close – let’s not forget.

All of us here at Coral Gables Counseling Center want to send our love to all of you and hope you all recover quickly and safely.