What Does It Feel Like to be at Ground Zero? My thoughts from experience
Okay... it feels odd and strange and very real.
When you are hours away everyone is racing about .. looking for batteries.. driving erratically, trying to be polite and at the same time.. trying to get what they can fast and get home.
By Andrew.. people were angry, mean.. frustrated... panicked and the store was an ugly place to be.. no real food, most of the good stuff gone... people grabbing at things, banging baskets into each other... growling, nasty, pissed off.. upset with their spouses, their kids... the poor people stuck working in the store who want to go home but can't because they need their job when the storm is gone.
After Andrew... Miami changed. I don't remember a panic since. People are polite, friendly almost like we are all in this together. Then again... we haven't had an Andrew threat so maybe people wouldn't be so nice because they feel they are facing death.
The air feels electrically charged.
Birds fly about strangely and slam into windows.
The wind keeps blowing, heavy, steady but not that strong...yet strong enough to remind you that a Storm is Coming in..
If you have a fan... go and get it. Take it into the bathroom. First turn on the shower.. hot water only. Let the room get really hot and steamy. Then turn the water off and turn the fan on. Stand there in front of it.. Hot, humid air.. coming at you... nonstop. That is how it feels when the storm is still offshore.
Then a band comes through.. that first band that you remember sometimes better than the actual storm. The band that confirms ..this is not a drill or a game of make believe.. it's coming.
Then the weather gets a bit better. You rush about some more .. a bit faster.
You do strange things like you start cleaning the house and sweeping what might soon be under water or blown away.
You decide where you will make your last stand. IF you have kids.. you make them put shoes on and then realize...shoot.. you need to put shoes on too if you want them to .. darn. You put the supplies somewhere safe that you can reach easily. You give all the kids or people at home a flashlight with fresh batteries. You then soon tell them KEEP THEM OFF!!! Don't play with them!!! Rolling eyes..human nature. 10 or 60 they all start turning them on and off.. You put the medical supplies near the snack food. You give everyone a small bottle of water that is there. You take mattesses and play camp out around the living room...or any room away from windows.
You take the battery operated radio or better yet.. battery operated radio/tv/weather radio and you set it to the local news of your choice.. you hunker down.
You tell yourself it won't be as bad as it sounds. You tell yourself you have done all you could do. You tell yourself that they rarely live up to their press releases.
The surreal becomes real. Not normal becomes normal.
You resign yourself to waiting for the storm hit.. wishing it would hit.. wishing it would just come already so you can get to the other side and deal with whatever you have to deal with...
It is the unknown that can drive you crazy. That is why people stay in bad marriages and jobs.. the known devil is worse than any new devils they might meet along the way. So much for optimism huh? Smiling.. true. The unknown factor that people in New Orleans are going through is the hard part.
When it comes... you are terrified and at the same time... oddly in awe of the power nature is unleashing. That is if you are not holding your bathroom door shut and or trying to get to your neighbors house while yours is collapsing. Happened to friends of mine in Andrew... I was lucky. I was on Miami Beach in a beautiful old Roaring 20s sort of big house.. and everytime the wind slammed into the house.. I could feel the house shaking.. the floor vibrating. Thought there was water downstairs... was afraid the roof would cave in from the weight of the water that it turns out wasn't there. I acted strong for my kids. I prayed and said Tehillim.. Psalms.. I listened to the sound of the wind and the sounds faintly heard through the wind of the Ocean battering the shore... a few blocks away.. maybe four blocks away.. the wind flying fast through the Pine Trees on Pine Tree Drive.. knocking down a few along the way.
But right now.. at ground Zero.. they are both wishing it would go away and wishing it would hit.
It is an insane time.. where it feels like every decision they made was the only one they could make and where you hope and pray that everyone got it wrong and the doomstay scenarios are all wrong... and the city you love will be there tomorrow... and you will be alive to enjoy it. You and all your loved ones.