Calm in the Storm

Sep 12, 2017 | Posted by Jennifer


As a member of the IEW “remote” team, I make my home near St. Augustine, Florida. It’s a beautiful city in a lovely part of the state, and I enjoy my home in paradise (especially during the mild winters!). Unfortunately coastal living isn’t always sunshine and seashells. Occasionally it brings bad weather. Recently it brought Irma. 

Last week, as the news reports continued to cover Hurricane Harvey and its devastation, they began to mention a new name: Irma. Floridians watched with trepidation as she gathered in size and grew in strength. Eventually, Irma grew into a mammoth storm that made Hurricane Andrew look minuscule by comparison. My son, a junior at Stetson University in Deland, Florida, finally called to let us know that his school was closing for the storm and that he was heading home. “Oh yeah, Mom,” he mentioned. “My friend down a few rooms from me is from Key West, and he and his family need a safe place to stay. Can they come, too?”

I didn’t hesitate at all. “Of course!” I said. I couldn’t even imagine what this young man’s family was thinking. After all, they were leaving homes they’d had in their family for four or five generations, not knowing if they would still be standing when they returned. A few days later, they drove our way, and we had the pleasure of meeting Allen, Debbie, Martin, and Danielle. Allen and Debbie, siblings, grew up in Key West. They shared with us their memories of listening to Tennessee Williams, their next door neighbor, working at his typewriter. It was so exciting to hear their reminiscences of growing up in such a unique part of the world. Despite the sobering backdrop of the storm, we conversed into the night, enjoying getting to know our new friends.

Hurricanes are capricious things. Sometimes they quickly roar down their chosen road; other times they meander much like a butterfly, seemingly flitting from one spot to another and keeping all the prognosticators guessing. Irma was the latter. At first they said she was going to rake up the east coast. Next we knew she was going straight up the middle, much like a bowling ball careening down the center of the lane, blasting pins out of the way. Eventually she decided her track and slowly began to slide up the western side of the state. Our little group gathered in the house and waited, watching the newscasts of the destruction. Irma took her sweet time.

As we watched the news reports roll in showing Irma chewing up Key West, we mourned with Debbie and Allen and listened to more stories of their colorful island life. We shared their excitement when they were able to finally establish a cell phone connection with someone they knew. And we continued to wait for Irma to come to us. As I write this post, neither of them know the fate of their homes, their boats, or their possessions. The bridge is still down, and phone lines and Wi-Fi are disrupted.

It took a little while, about twelve hours if I remember it correctly, but sometime around 1:00 AM Irma finally arrived. I awoke to the sound of screaming winds and a beautiful bright green flash that filled the sky. Later, I learned that it was a transformer blowing. Sitting in a chair in my bedroom, I watched Irma toy with our trees and fill our pond to nearly overflowing. I scrolled through social media on my phone throughout the night and chatted with my church and my community, all of us praying and supporting each other with our thoughts, prayers, and words. The wind howled its fury.

Eventually the winds began to die down. The blackness of night was replaced with the grayness of morning. Although our power was out (and remains out), our homes had (mostly) held and our loved ones were safe. After my husband got our generator kicked off, he headed out to help a friend one community over. Trees had fallen. Water had encroached. Irma had left.     

We are in the early part of recovery. I’ve heard stories of friends’ roofs being yanked off while they were inside them and of other friends wading through their living rooms in waist-deep water. Trees and tree limbs are everywhere. But guess what? The sun is out and despite the wind, our community is gathering. Chain saws are chewing through the debris and neighbor is helping neighbor. We will recover.

Natural disasters are terrible things. But they also bring out the best in people. They remind us of our collective humanity. I’m thankful for my church and my community. Although the flooding in our area is historic, I know our community will recover. It’s a powerful reminder of hope and calm in the eye of the storm.


Jennifer Mauser has always loved reading and writing and received a B.A. in English from the University of Kansas in 1991. Once she and her husband had children, they decided to homeschool, and she put all her training to use in the home. In addition to homeschooling her children, Jennifer teaches IEW classes out of her home, coaches budding writers via email, and tutors students who struggle with dyslexia.

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