Photos and Story by Michele Maki, American Red Cross
Close your eyes for a moment and imagine yourself at home.
You’ve been told a hurricane is coming your way and to prepare for the unimaginable. The rain starts to fall. It gets heavier and the wind picks up. You drive to the store and stock up on water, batteries, and food. The TV is kept on so you can listen to the news and weather reports. A quick look in to your wallet reminds you that payday is a couple of days away, so spend carefully. There is little gas left in the car, but you aren’t too worried yet, because you haven’t been given an evacuation order and you don’t live right on the coast. Still, the thought of a hurricane hitting your own state is a scary thought, so you keep the news on to stay informed, just in case.
The hurricane hits. There is lots of rain and wind, and you’re so thankful that you don’t live on the coast which is 25 or 30 miles away. The storm rages all night and in the morning, you get the evacuation order. You go to leave your house and see…….water. Lots of it. The area around your home is flooding. How can this happen? It happened so fast.
The hurricane hits and then the storm stalls over land and dumps rain at the rate of several feet per day over your town. The water is rising. You can’t get out. The feeling of terror starts to overcome you and you fight away the panic. “Help…help me! Help my children!” You call 911 for help. “Help me…my kids….my family…we can’t get out…the water is rising….please come….”
The coast guard and fellow citizens arrive and are rescuing your neighbors in boats. You’re next…your family is helped into a boat. There is no time to grab the food and water you spent your last dime on…just time to grab your backpack with a change of clothes and a phone and flee. You are overwhelmed with fear and then relief…so much so that you don’t even recall who saved you. It’s a blur.
By nightfall you and your family have been driven to a shelter and an American Red Cross volunteer welcomes you and listens as you recount the terror of the last 24 hours.
What just happened? You are numb…in shock. Comprehending the last 24 hours is difficult. Decision making? Too much. Everything is still sinking in.
This narrative mirrors the last 24 hours for one evacuee. Juliet Valdez and her family survived a terrifying ordeal when they were rescued from their Dickinson, Texas home.
“It happened so fast. I thought we were ok…I mean, we did everything right, didn’t we? Food water, listening for the evacuation orders……” Her voice cracks with emotion as it trails off. “I don’t know what to do now…I don’t know what we are going to do.”
Juliet is now safe in a shelter supported by the Red Cross. She and her family have a safe place to sleep, food and emotional support by Red Cross Volunteers.
“I can’t thank them enough – the Red Cross. I don’t know what we would do without your help.”
Juliet and her family have a long, uncertain road ahead of them. What has become of her home? Her job? Her finances? Those everyday things we take for granted are big concerns for her on her road to recovery – a road that will be weeks and months and perhaps years to travel. But the Red Cross will be there to help her navigate it.
“Thank you, Red Cross…” Juliet wipes away a tear and continues. “Thank you all for coming to help us. I’ll never forget you. Thank you.”