Rabid Fun

John Cowart's Daily Journal: A befuddled ordinary Christian looks for spiritual realities in day to day living.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Days With Fay

We survived.

Officially Tropical Storm Fay never reached hurricane strength although you’d never have guessed that here on the ground. In Florida eleven people died in the storm and property damage climbed into the millions of dollars. About half the population of Florida lost electric power and about eleven million people evacuated or huddled in public shelters.

While most offices and businesses closed, many bars stayed open.

I’m not sure, but this may account for some storm-related tragedies.

Three tourists here in Jacksonville decided it would be a cool idea to say they’d been swimming in the ocean during a hurricane. They all had to be rescued but one young lady drowned.

Down state, a young man decided it would be cool idea to fly a big kite in the storm winds along the beach. His kite first dragged him along the sand, then lifted him about 20 feet in the air, and finally slammed him into the side of a building. He only suffered broken bones but he know how a bug feels when it hits a car windshield. (I think videos of that kite suffer can be found on Google Video).

Ginny and I came out fine although one of our neighbors didn’t. Tons of wood fell on the home of one of our neighborhood watch members around the corner:

Even with all the damage from Fay, Ginny and I were not called upon to exercise our CERT (Civilian Emergency Response Team) training; throughout the storm professional responders kept access to all areas of the city. Fay was not a big enough disaster for CERT to kick in.

However we did use things we learned in our CERT classes. For instance, when asked to travel 15 miles at the height of the storm to do a helpful but unnecessary chore for someone, I said a flat out “NO”. I felt guilty about it, but I saw no reason to risk becoming a victim myself because of someone else’s lack of planning. This involved only property damage not loss of life.

I canceled my appointment with Dr. Woody Friday morning and later that afternoon the radio announced that a 12-foot long alligator was found swimming around in a flooded parking lot by the medical building.

Rising waters also drive snakes to higher ground—which often means into someone’s house.

Less dramatic but more common, ants, which normally live in underground nests, form rafts which float on water when the ground becomes supersaturated. People who wade in flood waters find themselves covered with stinging ants.

Mostly Ginny and I just hunkered down in our home listening to thumps as falling limbs crashed onto our roof. She caught up with tons of work in her home office; I studied the structure of Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula.

Great reading for stormy days.

I’ve mentioned before how Dracula influenced me to begin keeping a daily journal over 30 years ago. But this re-reading of the novel related to another book I’m writing.

Once TS Fay crossed the Florida the first time, it stalled in the Atlantic about 20 miles south of here and sat there storming for days. During the early days, every time we heard a tornado warning, we’d go to the safest area of our house; but when alert followed alert day and night day after day, we almost ignored them and went about our business.

After six or seven days without even opening our front door, Ginny and I went stir crazy and we ventured out yesterday although there were still a few tornado alerts now and then. We met the kids still in town up at Dave’s Diner for breakfast. They are all fine.

Here’s a strange experience:

As a leader in our neighborhood watch, I felt it my duty to check on the people living in the 59 houses in our horseshoe. So, using the CERT triage principal of “start where you stand”, I began with our next door neighbor and moved from house to house around the horseshoe.

Now, I did not do anything for anybody.

I did not give our a single drink of water or rescue a single soul from a burning building. I just visited from house to house as best I was able and asked folks how they were doing.

The gratitude I encountered amazed me.

Brother Lawrence, author of The Practice Of The Presence Of God, said that it is not the greatness of a task that counts but the love with which it is performed. That we are to do little things for the love of God.

I almost agree.

But, I can’t claim to have acted toward my neighbors with any degree of love. Going stir crazy from being cooped up in the house motivated me more than anything else. Yet I learned long ago to pay little attention to my own motives; when you give a starving kid a sandwich, he doesn’t care diddle-squat about your motives—he just eats the sandwich. I’d go nuts looking for some pure motive in my own heart.

It just ain’t there.

But so many of my neighbors seemed pathetically grateful that someone had come by to check on them personally.

Of course I was not able to get to all 50+ houses (my legs gave out and I started trembling too bad to go on) but fortunately about 40 houses in, I ran across four young people who took over for me. These kids loved the excitement of helping neighbors. I’m pleased and proud of them.

One funny thing:

Fay forced the cancellation of all sorts of activities in Jacksonville. The Monster Truck Rally had to be postponed. One wedding got postponed. Concerts, sales, drives, picnics—all canceled or postponed.

But one elderly lady in a house I visited told me that Friday she was scheduled to go in for a colonoscopy. She arrived at the clinic to find she was the only patient who made it there through the storm. They saw her immediately.

“Of all the things this damn storm canceled,” she said, “Why couldn’t that have been one of them”!

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 1:02 PM


At 12:09 PM, Blogger Amrita said...

Hi John, I was thinking of you and the family wheen i heard about Fay. Thank god you all are safe and the allie was not swimming in your backyard.

The pictures look scary.

We 've had storms like these , cyclones actually.

Sorry for the people who lost their lives.

You really have a community spirit going around and calling on neighbours.


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