We are incredibly sorry to see what you are going through right now. We are watching day by day in trepidation as more and more loss reveals itself along your southwestern coastline. We are feeling your pain in the same way you felt ours several years ago. Storms that begin with “I” are not friendly, they are not fun, they are unwelcome, they cause pain, they cause loss, they cause destruction, and they are definitely not invited back for dinner or a second visit. And, while our “I” storms have been very different, we stand with you today. Because we have come to understand the terror of these horrible storms and their aftermaths. And we understand the days, months and years that lie ahead of you in order to get back to “normal.” We feel your loss. And, although empathy may not be at all helpful right now, we want you to know, we feel your pain.
We want you to know that we are here for you. We understand that, however comforting, thoughts and prayers do not undo the damages that have been done. They do not bring back your homes, your cars, your material things or your items of sentimental value. And, most importantly, they cannot bring back the lives of those who have been lost in this abhorrent and unavoidable natural disaster.
We want you to know that you should take it day by day, piece by piece. That looking at the big picture of what is to be done right now will be too overwhelming. It will be too much. Take baby steps towards putting things together again. Celebrate the small successes. The power will be back soon. Celebrate that. If your home is gone, you must have faith that a new place to be is on the horizon. And when it happens, celebrate that. If your home was damaged, room by room it will start to feel cleaner, drier. Celebrate that. You will find cherished items destroyed, but you may also happen upon pleasant surprises of preservation in the mud. Celebrate that too. More outside help is arriving daily. And, when each party arrives…You guessed it. Celebrate that.
Better days ARE ahead.
In the weeks and months to come, dwelling on the loss and the devastation will not help you. Yes, you should absolutely process the losses, feel them. But staying in that space will not move you forward. Plow into better days with your sights set on the horizon line. Or take that friend in a drier space up on their offer to get out, get some rest and take a break. And then go back and continue to plow forward.
You see, we understand that our “I” storms are not the same. We cannot imagine the devastation brought about by the storm surges and flooding on top of the howling devastation of the winds. We cannot relate to the specific paths of relief and then recovery lying ahead of you. But we can understand the helpless feeling of your home at your feet in ruin, your community devastated and your familiar surroundings now feeling like a foreign place. We GET that. And we are here to tell you that it WILL get better. You will survive and you will make it through this and, one day, you WILL feel “normal” again. You, and your community, are stronger than you think you are.
It will take time. It will take patience. It will take your communities coming together to right what has been wronged by your “I” storm (we shall not speak his name!). It will take the strong helping the weak. Those who have done “alright” letting those who have lost so much lean on them. Cry on each other’s shoulders. Lift each other up. Put your specific skill sets to work to rebuild your homes, and your communities, together.
We apologize for the “tough love” talk. Because you probably don’t want to hear this right now. But, one day down the line, you may need some of this encouragement. Some of this direction. Some of this “everything WILL get better” rant. We know this because we have been there for the past five years. Rebuilding our home, piece by piece, bit by bit, home by home and business by business. And every once in a while, you will need a reminder to keep going. If you need proof that everything CAN get better and feel somewhat normal again; well look at the absolutely hopeless situation St. John and so many other places devastated by natural disasters have been in. And know…There ARE better days ahead.
Like we said, we do not pretend to fully understand the pain you are going through. Every storm, and its impact, is different. But we are here for you. And we are willing to bet that many people across the country are as well. If you are one of those people looking on in horror from afar, and you know someone in the impacted areas of this terrible “I” of a storm, REACH OUT to them. Offer up a place to stay (a hot meal, dry bed and warm shower are likely high on the survivors’ priority lists right now), ask them, not just what they need, but what they want…Creature comforts are unrealistically essential to mental well-being in situations like this. And listen to them, don’t tell them. Ask them what they want, what they need and where you can support. And LISTEN.
And, to the people of Florida, we know that SO MANY of you supported us when we were going through the earthshattering aftermath of our “I” storm (we shall not speak her name either!). You donated to our causes and our fundraisers, you sent relief supplies, you showed up on our shores to support our re-emergence to tourism. And we want you to know that we are here. If you need an escape, a listening ear, a sympathetic shoulder to cry on or an understanding and knowing glance. Reach out to the people you know in the Virgin Islands. You supported us. And we support you.
Keep your eyes on the horizon line. Keep moving forward. It WILL get better.