After a Great Vacation … Hurricane Irma

Last week I boarded a plane to go to Puerto Rico and landed in the Island around 10:00 pm.   My nephew was going to pick me up at the airport in San Juan.  It was a good flight, not too much turbulence but my back was hurting me so much that it caused me to have a horrific headache.  I am not sure if I am getting too matured to get on a flight after a 15 hour day of activity or my back is bothering me so much that seating for so long is creating a great discomfort.  Either way I disembarked the plane and walked toward the ground transport area.  My nephew goes to college near the airport so I texted him and let him know I was already at the baggage claim area.  I learned sometime back to pack wisely and not bring things am never going to use so I carry on my luggage.  Also I have been traveling so much for work that it has become easy to pack just what is need.

I decided that I would walk outside and wait for my nephew there, but the moment I put one foot outside the baggage claim area I felt like I was stepping into an oven.  I quickly decided that it was much comfortable to wait inside the air-conditioned area.  A few minutes after I texted my nephew he called me and said he was outside.  As soon as I went outside my glasses became fogged and I could not see anything. It was so hot I could barely take a breath.  But my nephew had his AC blasting so it was so nice to get into his truck.

Not soon after I got to PR the news started about the impending storm. I became alarmed as I left PR over 30 years ago and no longer have the stamina or valor to seat inside a house while a hurricane is pounding the doors and the house.  The last time I was in a storm that huge I was in my teens and it was a scary one.  Now am older and as I get older the more terrified I am about floods, storms and danger.  It is almost an impairing feeling that I cannot control, perhaps because I have seen so much that I don’t want to be a first hand participant.  Just thinking about raising waters gets me very anxious.  As the days went by, although I was there only for the weekend, I got more anxious.  I was supposed to leave Tuesday at 7am and everyone around me was on preparation mode.  I wondered if the meteorologist had it right and I was going to be able to get out.  Part of me wanted to be there and ride the storm with my family but a larger part of me was in survival desperate mode and wanted to get out as soon as possible.

Finally, it was Monday evening and I was glued to the TV and Facebook watching the “live” broadcast about the progression of the hurricane. I got ready for bed but it was impossible to sleep.  At 5:00 am my nephew and I began our 15 minute ride to the airport.  The airport was packed with people trying to get out of the Island. I had checked in the night before and I was going to carry on  my luggage so I knew I didn’t have to worry the long line to turn in the luggage.  I was also TSA pre-check so I avoided the humongous line to get to the gate. Every step was getting me closer to being home away from danger.  In my mind was the family I left behind and the danger they will be facing.  In a way I felt bad and in a way I felt as a coward leaving the rest of them behind but on the other hand I logically thought that I had planned to leave today and if I stayed it would have taken many days before I could get a flight out.  I had job commitments to fulfill and truthfully I was homesick and wanted to be by my partner.

We boarded the plane and as I sat there I trembled. I didn’t have butterflies in my stomach, they had already converted into bats!!! Usually I don’t like the take off or landing of the plane but this time I was thinking about the hurricane and the winds it was bringing as well as whether or not we were going to feel some of that while on the air.  The plane started to move and I closed my eyes holding to the arms of the seat and finally up in the air.  I put on my headset and looked for a funny movie. I figured that if I was entertained watching a comedy I would not remember I was up in the air escaping Irma. The flight attendant brought me coffee and breakfast and I tried to eat but I was so nervous that I barely touched the omelette they gave me.

These were the longest 3 1/2 hours of my life without knowing what was happening as the satellite TV wasn’t working.  Finally we heard the announcement that we were 20 minutes from JFK and to prepare the cabin for landing.  Once again my anxiety level was up! The approach requires the plane to go low by the ocean in order to land at JFK airport. In a good day I don’t like it and today my anxiety level had broken the meter so it was going to be a scary landing.  Once again I closed my eyes and thank goodness the person by the window seat kept the shade closed so I didn’t have to see the ocean.  Finally I felt the plane tires touching ground and I was able to breathe easy. I was seating on seat 2 C on the aisle, so as soon as the bell notified us that it was OK to begin deplane the plane I got up, got my luggage and exited the plane.  It was a wonderful feeling to be able to walk away.

Today as I watch the devastation this natural disaster has caused and will continue to cause, I am thankful that my family was spared, PR was spared and we are all well. I am still worry about those relatives who are in Florida waiting for the monster hurricane to pass through.  Then not only there is Irma but now there is Jose and an earthquake that has devastated Mexico.   I hope and pray that the most divine power to intervene and dissipate the winds and calm the waters.

This experience has made me realize that as I age I have changed much.   What was a normal way of life now has a great impact in my live and the way I react to those events.  Now all I desire is a quiet evening with the person I love in the place that we choose to be, whether it is by our mountain cabin, the city home or RVing somewhere in a beautiful campground in America.   All that is left is to pray for the safety of those who are in the path of the hurricane.

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