For the past 2 weeks I have had zero desire to write about education. I just couldn’t.
Last week Irma came barreling towards my home. Even today, I write this sitting at a Starbucks as I still have no cable, internet or home phone. But, I have a lot more than I don’t, so you will get NO complaints from me.
We Floridians are use to hurricanes and threats of hurricanes. Even so, make no bones about it, everything about an impending storm and its eventual landfall is disruptive. Everything.
Before the Storm
Days before, when the storm is just a swirl in the Atlantic, we all kinda believe it won’t happen. Life continues as usual, while we keep one eye on the news.
The few smart storm-pessimists get all the water and bread off the grocery shelves so that by the time the rest of us fools finally show up it’s all gone. Somehow, that’s when the real “holy-crap, it’s-really-coming” seems to set in. Nope, the impending storm isn’t real when the meteorologists on every tv and radio channels tells us all day long. But empty shelves and more than 2 people at the gas pump…that’s when we freak out.
At this point, everything goes a bit off kilter. Corporate emergency plans get dusted off, and names and phone numbers get feverishly updated. At home you hunt for birth certificates and social security cards. Supermarkets get slammed, as plywood and batteries and tuna, wine and poptarts have their best sales week in 5 years.
And while you are trying to figure out how to tie up all your responsibilities at work and get your own neglected emergency supplies, the school understandably starts calling. Early pickup please, and all after-school programs are cancelled.
There will be no writing today.
Now you drag your kids with you everywhere because, frankly, you have to. And, you completely stress about having enough food, gas, and water to last for at least a few days.
Will there be electricity? What will we do if there is no electricity?! Where will we live? Florida is too hot; it will be an unlivable 95 degrees inside. What will I do with my kids? Where will we go?
Then the storm hits, and you lose electricity within minutes of the winds picking up. Loss of cell service follows.
You sit in darkness because all your windows and doors are boarded up; you talk and listen to the wind howl outside. For hours, you try not to open the refrigerator in fear of losing the what little cool air is preserving your food.
If you are lucky, you listen to a battery operated radio, or play board games by flashlight to occupy yourself and the kids. And, you pray your home stays intact.
There will be no writing today.
The storm clears enough to make a break from the darkness. You take stock of the damage.
Now the real discomfort starts. There is still no electricity but hopefully there is running water. Debris is everywhere, and you can’t make phone calls or send text messages to check on loved-ones. And, no driving yet. The roads are blocked and power lines are down. You help neighbors clean up and intrude on friends who are lucky enough to have electricity. You boil water and you wait.
There is no school. Most of us can’t get back to work. You need more food, and a little ice would be heaven. You need to find your loved ones, and help others.
Until those basic needs are met there will be no writing.
The Luxury of Normalcy
It’s been 2 weeks of pre and post Irma, and life is finally somewhat recognizable. About 80% of South Florida has electricity again, and supermarket shelves are about 70% restocked. Fresh produce is returning and water is no longer a hot commodity.
But I still didn’t want to write… until something hits me like a ton bricks.
Obviously, I couldn’t write because I was too worried about my basic needs. Who would expect me to perform at a normal level while trying to think in literal darkness?
But, isn’t that exactly what we do it kids and families who fight for their basic needs daily? We expect poor kids to learn, their parents to do homework, and show up to PTA meetings, all while the storm kicks up around them. And, when they can’t we judge them for not caring about their kids.
What I experienced in the last 2 weeks (fear, uncertainty, hustling for basic needs, not knowing if I had enough, not knowing when I could return to work) that’s how many of our kids and families live every single day.
My momentary discomfort is some else’s very real life. I had just a glimpse, just enough to know I never want to live there.
So, I pray to not quickly forget the emotions of the last weeks. And I hope we will all be more gracious tomorrow, and fight harder, for those whose hurricanes come everyday.