Almost a year ago, I posted about getting ready for Hurricane Matthew in Grief Before and After the Storm. Now Hurricane Irma’s bullying her way toward swallowing my state.
With Irma following so closely on the horrible heels of Harvey, people in Central Florida took this storm’s approach seriously. Usually, by the time most folks start preparing — a day or two before a hurricane — supplies become scarce. I went to the store Wednesday to freshen my supplies (read: to buy chocolate-covered cookies and Cheetos) and stopped by a few aisles just to see how they looked in advance of Sunday afternoon’s anticipated rough weather. As you can see by my photos, options were already limited.
It’s awful to admit I smiled when I saw the emptied shelves — not that I felt happy the supplies were gone. Far from it. Many people still needed essential items, and I hadn’t a clue whether they’d be able to find them elsewhere. A part of me even felt guilty that I’d tucked them away months ago when hurricane season began. (I used to teach emergency preparation seminars at public and private events around our area; I generally keep necessary emergency kit items current.)
I sighed with relief that so many of my fellow residents weren’t waiting until the last minute this time.
Once-upon-a-lifetime ago — my husband’s lifetime, to be precise — I was active in my neighborhood CERT program*. I even got licensed to operate ham radio so I could check in with others in the event of phone failures.
But the first time I tried to reconnect with my CERT peers after my husband died, the triage refresher course cut too deeply. I shook as the instructor stressed the potential for “life over limb” decisions that offered “the greatest good for the greatest number.”
I couldn’t handle the reminder that sometimes you can’t save people no matter how hard you try. That I couldn’t save my husband no matter how hard I’d tried. That despite my training and efforts, he died.
It took years to forgive myself for failing him. My inability to save him left me as empty as the bottled water aisle before Irma.
Hindsight (and seven years) tells me it wasn’t my fault. I did everything I could.
Now, as all of Florida holds it breath in the hours and days to come, I’m again telling myself I’ve done everything I could to make ready for this storm. Whatever Irma brings, it’s no one’s fault.
(Yet that didn’t stop me from grumbling at my late husband while sandbagging and hauling things into place. Was my anger logical? Of course not. But neither is grief.)
*CERT — Community Emergency Response Team — a great program in which private citizens receive training to help their neighbors in emergencies