It was September 6, 2004, and our family was at the beach for a swim. Everything seemed pretty normal that afternoon except that the waves were quite a bit bigger than they usually were. As a nine year old girl, nothing was stopping me from having fun that day until we pulled in at the grocery store to grab a few things on the way home and the windows were boarded shut.
“A hurricane is coming” was the reason given for all the wood covering the doors and windows of the different public buildings. We chuckled a little to ourselves because warnings had been given before, but all we ever received was a tropical storm. We were below the hurricane belt, so these people were probably just being overly cautious.
Tuesday, September 7th came and so did the cancellation of school. My best friend was at our house and we decided to play house in the living room since it was rainy outside. After the wind became a little more intense, we moved to the kitchen; but after a huge nutmeg tree snapped over right behind our house, we headed for the basement apartment and to a room that didn’t have any windows. The two single girls that lived in the basement of our mountain side house, my family and my best friend hid out in a little room for hours while the storm smashed the island. As the constant sound of a jet engine hovered over the house and the continual shattering of glass filled my little ears, I sat on a bed up against the wall and cried. I was sure my death was right before my young eyes and I didn’t know what to do with all the emotions. While the adults held the doors shut and water ran through the room, I cried out to God due to the fear that was raging in me. My heart spoke to Him about the fear I was facing and I also told Him that I had heard of many miracles in the Bible, but wanted to see one in my own life. As a young, nine-year-old girl, I asked God for a miracle that day…I wanted us all to make it out alive.
After hours of sitting in a little room with eight other people, the storm moved on, but the darkness outside hindered us from seeing the damage the island had taken from the storm. All we could do is go to bed and allow the morning light to bring the reality of Hurricane Ivan to our faces. I can’t tell you what all went through my mind that night as my parents, three brothers and I all went to sleep on a double bed in a room that didn’t belong to us.
The next morning came and with it a huge dose of reality. The roof had been taken off our house and there was water standing on the floor. The walls were plastered in leaves and belongings were drenched in water. CDs were all over the floor and random objects in odd places. The storm had done its job quite well. But our family was all alive and I had experienced a miracle first hand.
The coming days, weeks, and months put our family in a place we had never been or experienced before but we were not alone. The rest of the island was struggling to make it through just like we were. Living without running water and electricity for a while changed us. It made an impact on our lives that doesn’t just happen in a short period of time. Every morning when I got up for the following days after Hurricane Ivan, I would go to the living room or veranda where we’d, my brothers, friend and I, eat orange flavored cookies or wafers to help hold us over till we had food for breakfast while my dad soaked his arm in some strong smelling liquid to keep it from infection. His motorcycle accident didn't really come at the best timing, but then again...this wasn't an experience we signed up for or planned... My mom would wash clothes by hand and our water came from mud puddles or a little spring back in the bush somewhere. Days brought lots of work and extra patience. Living in the basement apartment with several other people/families kept it interesting... As kids we found our imaginations to be rather helpful when it came to playing in the cocoa. Since the trees that were usually standing upright were now on their sides, we turned them into animals and anything else we could come up with. Life was different now, and so were we.
Here I am today, 13 years later, and I still think back to that day in September whenever I hear of Hurricanes or find myself on September 7th. Within the past year I have noticed that I no longer have to battle the feelings of sickness every time I hear thunder or experience a big rain storm like I've had to ever since Hurricane Ivan. It changed me. It changed my perspective on life and who I am now.
Today, there are many children in this world experiencing tragedies of multiple degrees in life and I can't help but pray that God will give them peace in the midst of a storm, courage to be strong when it's scary, comfort when everything is upside-down, and rest when their bodies just need to sleep. Life is a journey and we all face trials of many kinds...the least we can do is reach out to those in need and give where it's needed the most. We all have received, so therefore it's only right that we give out of that grace and love of Jesus.