For many survivors of Hurricane Michael Facebook is the only place to reach out in hopes of being heard. It was Ali Wiggins post about life after Michael that really resonated with me.
Many affected counties like Jackson and Calhoun are difficult to reach rural, farming communities. Children from at least eight counties — Washington, Liberty, Jackson, Gulf, Gadsden, Franklin, Calhoun and Bay aren’t returning to school any time soon. In a direct message, Ali said to me, “We all feel isolated here. And we all know help is coming, but we never knew how long it would take. We never knew what our “help” would have to go through just to get to us. Heartbreaking.”
Ali’s voice and words are powerful, please read:
Ali Wiggins, October 25, 2018, Hurricane Michael survivor, Marianna, Florida. Printed with author’s permission.
If you are tired of seeing Hurricane Michael posts, maybe you should unfollow me. And this post will be longer than most so move along if you need to. This is pretty much the only sure fire way we can communicate with folks.
If you think a little rain and some wind rolled through here, you’re wrong. If you think since folks are getting their power turned back on everything’s fine now, you’re wrong. If you’ve seen some pictures and think you know what it feels like to live it cause you’ve seen a hurricane before, you’re wrong. 45 minutes either east or west of us is probably close to being normal again.
If I hear one more person say, “Yea, I’ve seen a few hurricanes. “So and so” hurricane was bad.” Well this wasn’t just a hurricane. It was the third strongest hurricane to hit the US in modern history. And I don’t care what hurricane you’ve seen, you ain’t seen bad! If you were alive in 1935 and saw the “Labor Day” hurricane hit the FL Keys, or in Mississippi in 1969 to see Camille, then we’ll talk. If not, you have no clue.
If you are seeing the news about Panama City and Mexico Beach, we are close to the same. The storm never really slowed down much or weakened when it left them. It hit us full force and we are 60 or so miles inland. Jackson and Calhoun counties were hit just as hard. Folks are living with generators, ridiculously made slow-pour BS gas cans, sometimes rationed gasoline if you can find a place that sells it. Curfews. Only two times of day: daylight and dark. Living in tents, their cars, friends houses, hotels.
You don’t go to the store, you get in line at the PODs. We have long lines for water, MREs, tarps, bugspray, and baby diapers. You could be the wealthiest guy around and it wouldn’t matter. There are very few places to spend it. It’s cash only purchases, no fast food, no ATMs. The stores that are open are only open from sun up to sun down. So you can forget picking up a gallon of milk on your way home. Winn Dixie closes at 5 now. And Walmart probably not long after that.
We have no idea what’s going on outside of this bubble because we have no internet, no phones, no cell service, no tv. We live with our windows wide open and no air conditioning. We have looters and scammers. We have people from all over the nation here, most of them to help us. But how do you know for sure? Some just walk up behind you in your own yard while you’re hanging your laundry on the clothesline and scare the crap out of you just asking if you need help with a downed tree.
Fella snuck right up behind me. He should’ve hollered from his truck. NOT COOL! You can’t tell who belongs in your neighborhood or not. You carry a pistol with you at all times just in case you guessed wrong on whether they are a good guy or a bad guy. Now it’s time for bed, the whole family piles up in one room with air mattresses, fans, open windows and our firearms in case someone decides they need your generator or gas cans or food more than you do.
You can’t sleep because you hear every single noise outside. You hear every siren and you cringe with each one. Flashlights in the dark? It could be a lineman or a boogie man, you don’t know! You go a week and then realize you haven’t seen nor heard one bird because there are no trees left. All the trees are on the ground, and I mean ALL of them, and all the creatures that lived in them are now everywhere. Yellow jackets and mosquitoes that look like they’re from Jurassic Park. The sounds of chainsaws, diesel trucks, helicopters, sirens, and generators constantly.
The death toll continues to rise. Houses are burning down as some folks get power and all the history that they’ve held are now gone with them. Debris piles are taller than the homes they sit in front of. One lane roads and downed power lines everywhere. AND THIS IS DAY 15!!
The depression this brings is real. No one here is dreaming this up. You couldn’t even if you tried! And if you think you could handle all this and go right on like nothing happened, you are welcome to set up camp here in Jackson County, Florida. I’ll give you my spot. I would love to see how you fair. Every where else in the world seems to be business as usual. Not here!
We are all now using the phrase, “new normal”. I hate it! I liked my old normal (as crazy as it was) just fine!!! I’ve cried. I’ve thrown shit. I’ve screamed. And I’ve cried some more. My heart hurts for so many people right now. And I am no where near what some people have experienced. They’ve lost it all. We still have our family and our home. A little damaged but still intact. So many don’t.
This wasn’t just a hurricane. This destroyed the lives of thousands of people. We post a dozen or more things a day to help folks find what they are looking for, whether it be a place to wash clothes, a hot meal to fill their bellies, or 5T clothes for their little boy or girl.
We post what we are living. This is all we can think about. This last 15 days have been awful. And if you can pick right up and get back to it already, then good for you. I’m having a little trouble with that right now. It still looks like a war zone here. Things won’t ever be the same again. I’ve tried so hard to be positive for the last two weeks. Now on day 15, I’m tired. My muscles ache from cutting trees and hauling fence. I wasn’t cut out for this. I’ve got poison ivy and ant bites. I’m pissed and I wish this was all just a bad dream. And I really, really miss Netflix.
Whew! Glad I got that out. I feel better now. Goodnight from JACO. Now y’all can go on about ya business.
How to help Florida Panhandle victims.