The first week of September is typically spent soaking up the last bits of summer before pulling out fall decorations, preparing for the start of the NFL season and the promise of cooler weather. Instead, the state of Florida sat glued to their televisions studying various spaghetti models, hoping the most recent predictions showed Hurricane Irma had turned north and spared the state from the direct hit of a Category 5 hurricane.
Hurricane Irma has come and gone, but she has left a lasting impression on Florida (both physical and emotional). Many people will focus on the destruction and ugliness that inevitably come along with natural disasters, but I saw a very different side of our community as we braced for the storm to hit.
In the days leading up to the storm, while I was at working trying to help people prepare for the storm, Andrew was at home preparing our home and making sure our neighbors were as prepared as possible as well. I saw friends and family coming together to ensure homes were safe and secure and that those who were remaining behind has sufficient supplies to ride out the storm. While there were stories of people hoarding water and generators, I saw strangers holding each other’s places in long lines and helping make sure that people were buying the correct items. I saw people caring about those around them, even if they had only met moments before.
As an essential employee in our health care system, I was mandated to remain in the hospital for the duration of the storm. While this was undoubtedly a stressful situation for both staff and patients, as no one knew what we would be facing once the storm passed, I saw people coming together to help each other and make the best out of a frustrating situation. Our hospital acted as a special needs shelter and housed employees’ families and pets, along with the patients that were unable to be safely discharged prior to the storm. While people could have been focused on their own homes and families, I saw something unexpected…
I saw employee families serving food in the cafeteria when they could have been huddled in their billeting areas watching the storm updates.
I saw a patient laying in an ER bed with a broken back asking staff members if they had heard updates from their families.
I saw children become instant friends, sharing their toys and activities with each other.
I saw staff members giving their food and supplies to patients leaving the hospital for a shelter.
I saw transport companies driving in wind gusts that grounded EMS to ensure people made it safely to shelters before the storm arrived.
I saw doctors offering to siphon their gas to help transport companies continue working when gas was running low.
I saw nurses caring for special needs individuals when their private caregivers were unavailable.
I saw staff members checking in on each other and making sure we were also cared for.
I saw doctors ensuring nurses had the opportunity to take a break and have a meal.
I saw strangers helping strangers.
In the days that followed the storm our community continued to show its resilience and compassion. People who quickly had power restored delivered their remaining supplies to areas without. People with trucks delivered supplies to flooded areas that were otherwise inaccessible. Neighbors connected neighbors to their generators. Entire neighborhoods banned together to remove extensive debris. Strangers became a community, united with one goal: not just to survive in the wake of the storm, but to thrive.
Thank you, Irma, for reminding us that there is good in the world.