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Ormond Beach Observer Friday, Sep. 6, 2019 8 months ago

Remember what matters most in wake of a devastating storm

Dorian didn't have a great impact here, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't reflect on its aftermath.
by: Jarleene Almenas Associate Editor

It could've been a lot worse.

It's a sentiment I've seen spread on social media, spoken aloud and expressed through frowns and sighs of relief as Dorian remained off Florida's east coast. When I encountered people after the storm on our beaches, while I took photos of them staring out at the churning, angry Atlantic, it was a phrase most had in common. Although we were spared and most are moving on from dorian, it's important to remember that some were not spared.

NPR reported the death toll to be about 30 early Friday morning, and shortly after the storm, the circulating photos showing how much of Grand Bahama island and Great Abaco were underwater were astounding.

As someone who's grown up in Florida — and actually moved to the state the summer of 2004, just months before we got battered by four hurricanes one after the other — I'm no stranger to hurricanes. I remember sitting on the carpet of our rental home during Hurricane Charley. I loved that house, with its blue siding and bay window, but it didn't fare well during Charley. The roof in several rooms caved in after the Category 4 storm, and we moved to a concrete block house, where we passed the other three hurricanes that year.

I don't think my family and I have ever evacuated for a storm. It might be the Puerto Rican in us. When you live on an island that small, there's really nowhere to evacuate to unless you take a plane. The only time I semi-evacuated was during Hurricane Irma, when I left because I had just torn several tendons in my ankle and had to climb three flights of stairs to reach my apartment (besides, I "evacuated" to my parents' house, which was closer to the center of Irma's path). 

My parents remember hunkering down for Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and Hurricane George in 1998. My grandmother even remembers the devastation caused by Hurricane Santa Clara in 1956. 

You know what none of us ever remember seeing? A hurricane stalling like Dorian did over the Bahamas. 

As a journalist, I was glued to the advisories by the National Hurricane Center, even when I wasn't on the clock. As a human being, I was heartbroken — for the victims, and for their families who weren't impacted.

Because I can empathize with them. When my family in Puerto Rico didn't evacuate for Hurricane Maria, I remember watching the news and waiting to hear from them. To hear they were all OK, no matter what had happened to their material possessions. And when I heard my great-aunt died, we faced the reality of not being able to fly to the island for the funeral.

So as humanitarian efforts and aid groups begin forming in the next few days or weeks, whether you choose to participate or not, look to those around you. Hug them a little tighter. 

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