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  • Writer's picture Kathy Cassel

Hurricane Michael Stole "Normal"

“At least you have your life.”

“At least you have your family.”

I've been told this many times.

Maybe too many times.

Although it's true.

I have my life.

I have my family.

And I have my pets.

Four extra in fact—a mother cat and three kittens that were abandoned.

Bringing our total to four dogs and five felines.

What I don’t have is normal life.

Hurricane Michael snatched that from us on October 10th.

I wasn’t afraid.

I wasn’t hiding.

I was at my daughter’s home because our house is very much in a flood zone.

I was taking videos with my water camera.

I was playing games with my kids.

Trees were crashing around us.

The neighbor’s tree crushed her shed.

I was on the phone with her, and said,

“The tree in your back yard fell on your shed.”

“I don’t have a tree in my back yard,” she replied.

“You do now,” I informed her.

Roofs flew by,

Electrical poles fell,

The water rose in the street over the bottoms of cars.

Smaller cars seemed to be swallowed up.

Ours were thankfully parked on a sloping driveway.

We lost power, we lost water, we lost internet.

There was no way to flush the toilet.

Streets were flooded.

Trees were everywhere.

We ventured out on foot.

There was no way out of the neighborhood due to hundreds of trees down.

Many of them had landed on houses and cars in addition to blocking the streets.

There was a strong sense of community even though this wasn’t our community.

We were survivors together.

We had no way of knowing how widespread the damage was.

That our city was flattened

It wasn’t until streets were being cleared and we were able to drive that we saw how war- torn our city was.

I headed to my shop first.

I knew I wouldn’t be able to reach our house.

I was hoping maybe there would be minor roof damage or shingles missing on the flea market, but long before I got there, I knew what I would see.

Nothing was the same.

I didn’t even know where I was part of the time I was driving.

There were no longer street signs or buildings on the corners to let me know.

And I had to turn around and go a different direction so many times.

I reached the flea market and it was immediately obvious that life as I knew it was over.

I loved having a toy store.

I loved being able to help a child find just the right toy at a good price.

I loved seeing my regular customers come in each week looking around expectantly to see what new find they’d make.

I loved when parents said coming to my shop was the highlight of the week for their child.

They said they’d be back to do their Christmas shopping soon.

My shop was a big part of who I was.

Now that part of me is missing.

I spent several 8-10 hour days working in 90F+ heat to salvage toys by flashlight since there was no electricity.

I personally ran off at least twelve looters and helped secure things from shops that had lost doors and walls.

We drove carload after carload and unloaded it at the house.

Getting the bags and boxes to the house was no easy feat.

Downed powerlines and trees meant parking a block away and carrying the bags and boxes while climbing over trees, branches, downed fencing and more.

Three of us took part of a day off to drive nearly two hours for gas, a laundry mat and internet.

Up until this point our families and friends didn’t know if we had even survived.

We took a large bucket and asked Walmart auto department if they could fill it with water so we could give everyone a small bucketful for their first “shower” in days.

Then it was back to work emptying the shops.

Finally I couldn’t take the constant darkness and heat.

Sure, it was amazing to see the stars in all their glory with no other light to mar their beauty.

But there are holes in our roof, mildew on the ceilings, bugs and other creatures inviting themselves in.

The house is full of toys, some of which have gotten wet. There is little room to navigate.

We couldn’t find anything in the dark.

All the food had gone bad days earlier.

I slept little.

So I packed what I could find and left for SC with three of my children.

One child had to stay behind due to serious violations.

My husband had to stay behind.

The dogs as well.

And since there is no more fence, they have to spend most of their time inside instead of being able to run and play.

My one hope for a piece of “normal” was the hope that St. Andrew’s State Park had weathered the hurricane well.

It didn’t.

So I became:

a writer with no way to charge my computer and no desire to write

a housekeeper with a trashed house

a mom with no way to feed my kids anything that wasn’t from donation sights, no way to provide clean clothes or keep them clean or even safe at times.

a toy store owner with no store

a scuba diver with no place to dive

One man threatened to shoot me where I stood in my own street.

My son had choice words for him.

You won’t hear those words in church.

I have been away from it for over a week now, but soon I have to head back.

My kids have been out of school since October 8th and won’t return until November 12th, and even then one will be in a situation where two schools are sharing one campus and attending school in shifts.

I’m not looking forward to returning to a place where there are more looters than resources, where stores can’t reopen, where many places still don’t have electricity and most don’t have cell service or internet.

Yes, I still believe God is in control

And yes I have my life.

But my life has missing pieces.

Too many missing pieces.

And only when those holes are filled will I really ever be myself again.

But I am a survivor.

I will make it.

There is no choice.

There are still things to be done.

Please share your own thoughts in the comment section below.

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