Like many Americans, especially those of us who have friends and relatives living in Florida, I have been following the course of Hurricane Irma for the past several days—listening to the data that predict the path of the storm, the projected rainfall amounts, barometric pressure, wind velocity, and expected storm surges. I have been watching the preparations for the storm, the course of evacuations, and the availability of storm shelters.
But this is not what interests me the most.
Having this data is like knowing a patient’s vital signs—his pulse, respiratory rate, blood pressure and temperature. It tells us how he is doing, but not how he feels.
More than data from the weather watchers, more than updates on the recovery effort, I’m interested in the human narratives behind Irma.
We were horrified by the images of the nursing home patients in their wheelchairs with flood water up to their waists while they waited to be rescued.
We can only wonder what it must be like for people who lost everything. And had no flood insurance. And now, no job to go back to.
“And so rock bottom became
the solid foundation
on which I rebuilt my life.”
What if you were in a shelter at the height of the storm and you started to experience chest pain, or unrelenting RLQ pain indicative of acute appendicitis, or symptoms of a UTI? Where would you turn for help? How did the doctors and nurses manage without electricity, without water, without sleep? How many lives did they save? How many did they lose?
Like the trees that were uprooted and the homes that were destroyed, the injured and terrified children, and lost pets, unspeakable suffering and deep grief are all remnants of Hurricane Irma.
The stories that emerge in the aftermath of the storm will be as powerful as the storm itself. They will fill volumes if people can find the words to tell them.
“Dance on broken glass,
build castles with shattered dreams,
and wear your tears like precious pearls.