Coping with distance when disaster strikes at home
Being born and raised in South Florida, I was always taught to prepare for the unexpected—the bad driver on the road and even the pop-up thunderstorm. But no one can prepare for a Category Five hurricane with 185 mph winds churning off the coast.
This week, Hurricane Dorian missed the state of Florida by only a hundred miles. But at one point, the hurricane was supposed to make landfall in Palm Beach County, my family’s exact location.
I’ve been at school since the middle of August, but I closely watched the hurricane’s developments as it barrelled toward my home. While speaking to my family on the phone before the storm, I could hear they were becoming anxious, which then rubbed off on me.
I have lived through several hurricanes before and have always been the one to outfit my home before the storm. This typically involves bringing in all the outdoor furniture, filling up our cars, and ensuring our generator is working properly. But this time, I had to walk my family through the steps to prepare for the storm on FaceTime.
On the Friday before Labor Day, there was a point where I nearly went home to help my family secure our home and ride out the hurricane with them. I was more nervous about my family’s safety and the aftermath if the storm did hit my home, including the clean up and the difficulty I could have communicating with anyone after the storm passed.
I am sure I am not the only person who felt the desire to go home and be with their family in this catastrophic time, and the media is certainly to blame. The updates are constant, and the meteorologist’s voice is not reassuring. Just when I thought the coverage couldn’t get any worse, every news channel began broadcasting around the clock hurricane coverage. There were constant images of the radar and the forecast track, telling me the worst was yet to come.
This issue is not specifically about hurricanes or Florida. There are numerous emotions associated with not being with your family and friends during a time of need. I understand these feelings are part of going to college and part of growing up. It’s possible you won’t always be there for your loved ones, and it’s something that is not always easy to deal with.
When Dorian had not yet hit land, residents all across South Florida were preparing for the looming storm. This storm was different because of its massive size and power—it is the second-strongest hurricane to ever hit the Atlantic Basin. My younger sister’s school closed down, the lines for gas were miles long, and the shelves in the supermarket were empty. My entire city was gearing up for the hurricane, and I was 1,500 miles away.
In Boston, I was glued to my TV, watching the news and waiting for the latest updates on its movement, which didn’t get any more optimistic as time went on.
To my friends’ and families’ delight, the massive hurricane stayed off the coast of Florida and only brought some tropical storm-force winds to the area. However, the storm had already devastated the Bahamas—the island of Grand Bahama is completely underwater due to the storm surge.
The hurricane taught me how hard it can be to be far away from your family during a time when you know you can help them. Sometimes, the urge to drop everything to be with them is unexplainable and all-consuming. But for anyone experiencing these same feelings, you should know that those thoughts are normal, and that despite the distance, you’re never alone.
Help the Bahamas by texting DORIAN to 9099 to donate $10 to the American Red Cross. If you are seeking psychological support, contact ECAPS at (617) 824-8595.
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