It’s that time of year…again
By Brenda Rivas, Communications Manager
Here we go again. As the Fall falls on us again, we prepare for another winter, another Holiday season, and another new year. Living in a landlocked state, we get to enjoy some of the things that autumn brings, such as the changing colors of the leaves and college football. We don’t usually think about this time of year as a time to prepare ourselves for possible disaster or tragedy. Unfortunately, that is the reality for the people of the Southeastern U.S. and the Caribbean. When September comes, for them, it signals hurricane season.
Growing up in the Northeast, we rarely saw hurricanes. And even when we did, the storms had lost their strength to wreak havoc. I remember in grade school going out during the eye of the storm to witness the incredible stillness and peace. For a moment, it was as if the world stood still. It was one of the most beautiful moments I ever experienced. It was so powerful, that even as a child I recognized the significance.
I also knew how lucky I was compared to those who felt the true power of those storms in the south, especially my extended family who lived in Florida and Puerto Rico. My parents would tell us stories of when they were young living on the island and how scary it could get. How they couldn’t leave their houses, sometimes for days depending on how bad the storm was. How other family members with smaller, less durable homes would come stay with them, often for weeks, until they rebuilt parts of their houses. How they lost power and clean water for days, even months, because the hurricane had knocked out the power and damaged their water systems. Not having ever gone through any of this myself, it was hard to understand the struggles and suffering that resulted from these natural disasters. I got a tiny glimpse of the after effects one summer when we went to visit my grandparents on the island. We had gone down early in June and spent weeks having to filter dirt out of and boil water to use for everyday things like brushing our teeth or bathing. Even then I understood how easy it is to take a simple thing like clean water for granted.
The storm from the previous year had been bad enough to damage the water system and leave some residents without clean water for almost an entire year. In all the years growing up and visiting my family there, they never had two severe hurricanes hit the island within weeks of each other. So, I can only imagine the level of struggle they have gone through in the last year. Last September, Puerto Rico was hit twice by category 4 and 5 hurricanes. Though the first storm, Irma hit only a very small area of the island, tens of thousands were left without power and were not at all prepared for the next storm. When Maria crossed over the bulk of the island, at a category 4, it devastated the residents.
If you have never been to Puerto Rico, I can tell you it is a beautiful place, when it hasn’t been ravaged by storms. The people are joyful and festive, when they aren’t fighting for survival. It has been a year and they are still rebuilding from these 2017 disasters. I want everyone to understand that this is not meant as a plea for action or donations. But if it inspires you to help in any way, I am grateful and I’m sure the people of Puerto Rico will be more than grateful for you.
This post is to share the gratitude I feel even in this stressful time. I am grateful that my family in Puerto Rico is well and have been lucky enough to get back to their normal, everyday lives in spite of the disaster. I am grateful for the fact that my immediate family lives in the Northeast and didn’t have to suffer through such struggle for survival. I am grateful for all the people who have reached out in any way to help and to pray for those in the Caribbean and Southeastern U.S. that were affected by hurricanes. I am especially grateful for the continued efforts of the Lutheran Disaster Response in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, who are currently working with 190 families and to create a multi-year volunteer rebuilding program in the Caribbean.
Here we go again, in September, for me means hurricane season and leaves me anxious that a disaster could be right around the corner for my family and the millions of other people living in the path of these tropical storms. It is in these times of stress, fear, worry, doubt, and frustration, more than ever that we need to hold onto something positive to help get us through. For me that is gratitude for what God has already helped us get through and faith in what God has planned for us.