It’s currently 1 a.m. The proverbial calm before the storm. After days of hunting for survival supplies, this evening felt oddly normal. With all of our preparations in place, there was nothing left to do but fall back into the monotony of our normal routine with our 6-year-old and toddler — dinner, bath time, tucking in, and lights out.
Our family lives in Lakeland, Florida. We’re expecting to start feeling Irma’s reach when we wake in the morning. I grew up here and have lived in Miami and Tallahassee, so I’m used to the whole hurricane ritual we Floridians take part in year after year. Having lived through several of them, here’s what I can tell you about Irma: She terrifies me. No storm has struck fear into my heart like this one has. Not even close. So why am I still here?
In my case, I’m inland and I don’t live in a flood zone that will undoubtedly be affected by the storm surge. But there are people who need access to the roads. They need gas in their vehicles. They must leave in order to survive. And with the scope of this exodus, if we all try to leave – those of us that must and those of us that just want to because we’re afraid – well … we’ve all seen the clips from “The Walking Dead” where the highways are littered with abandoned cars. As fearful as I am of this storm, the idea of being stranded in my car with two kids and no gas is a far worse prospect. We just can’t all leave. That’s the reality.
So you scramble. You buy your supplies. You check in with friends, family, and neighbors. You watch your friend’s kids so she can get her house ready, and her husband finds you an AM/FM radio that will work on batteries. You check social media feverishly for weather updates and levity in the form of Irma memes and purring kittens and friends living normal lives beyond Florida’s border. And you engage in the never ending politics that will never cease to be, even if Irma wipes your city off the map.
I woke up last night around 4 a.m. I couldn’t sleep. So I made a meme. It was a photo of Trump that looked like a news headline and read, “Trump declares he will NOT allow Jose to enter U.S. – No DACA for this bad hombre.” I posted it to Twitter and said, “Waiting on Irma in central Florida. You suck @realDonaldTrump!” Ok, so admittedly not my most mature moment. The day before, I responded to a headline from The Hill, “Trump EPA chief on hurricanes: Now is not the time to talk about climate change.” I tweeted, “Sitting in Polk county, FL and waiting on Irma to rear her ugly head. Now is EXACTLY the time to talk about climate change. Clue: it’s REAL.”
So why engage in the politics surrounding this impending hurricane? Simple. I’m scared. I’m probably more scared than I’ve ever been in my life. I feel helpless, and I hate that. My husband and I have two small lives to protect. Despite our 20 years together, we may have to depend on one another in ways that have never been tested. Real trust. The life or death kind.
The politics matter. Certainly they do. Of course, they’ll be there tomorrow and the day after, even if I’m not. We can unpack the politics later. Right now, I just want to keep my babies safe from this storm. Oh, and from Jose, too (the hurricane, not the immigrant).