The storm after the storm


As I write this more of Harvey’s rain is coming down outside my window. It’s now a Tropical Depression after three landfalls and a wake of destruction that is still unfolding. Millions of people will be displaced for weeks or months, and rebuilding their lives for years. Eventually the cameras will leave and the recovery will continue in terms of property and clean up. But, for some, the fear and the scars will last much longer.

I had a moment today that I didn’t see coming, although I probably should have. I had my earphones in and was listening to a press conference from Houston as I worked at my desk. The official at the podium was giving residents information on shelters and phone numbers and the progression of power companies. At some point in his list he began giving the information that would be needed to register with FEMA for assistance and when that process may begin.

In a blink I was back there. Sitting in a make shift FEMA command center with dozens of other people filling out forms and trying to wrap my head around what I’d lost and how much could be saved and what needed to be tossed and how much money did I make and what was my debt load already and would an SBA loan be better and would I even qualify for that and…and…and. ¬†All the while a giant pine tree rested where it had fallen – in the middle of my living room having shaved off the front wall of my duplex landing on the couch I had been sitting on while watching the storm out the window.

I felt a chill go from head to toe and my skin bristled like I’d been poked with something hot. My stomach flipped over. I closed my eyes and quickly shut off the press conference. Took a deep breath. Drank some water. And, shifted my focus back to the work I was doing.

It happened that fast. Just a few minutes ago my dad copied me in an email in which he told my story and as I read it my eyes filled with tears. It happens that fast.

Yesterday was the 12th anniversary of Katrina. My sister got out of New Orleans just in time to ride out the storm in Mobile. She then spent days watching her city fill up with water when the levees broke. Two days ago she was faced with making the decision to stay or go with fears that the waters would rise again the way they did 12 years ago and the way they did 3 weeks ago. The tone in her voice – the tone in her text – was at its limit. Thankfully, the pumps worked this time. Jess and her family are dry and safe.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is real and it effects millions of people in this country in many different ways. Some have the resources to get the help we need and learn how to deal with it when it decides to rear it’s ugly head. Others are not that lucky – and that’s an entirely different conversation. But, it’s one that needs to be had and it needs to be recognized that it’s not just our military men and women that suffer from it. It comes from trauma. And, it can manifest itself in many ways and at any time.

It’s easy to not think about it if you don’t watch the news or if you concentrate on the opening of football season or just can’t watch it cause it’s so sad. Well, I’m asking you to pay attention. Not just now, but for every day to come from this and any other national trauma or personal one. There are events in our lives that we don’t just ‘get over.’ There are events in our lives that make indelible marks and are with us for the rest of our days.

I’m ok tonight. My home is dry and I’m getting my Saints and Alabama gear together for the last couple of days of “tailgating week” at work. My mind is calm again, and hopefully I sleep without issue. I know how blessed I am. And, I know how scared and overwhelmed and traumatized and worried millions of people are tonight.

Pray for Texas. Pray for those coming from near and far to help Texas. And, pray for all those who will continue to battle the storm long after Harvey – or Ivan – or Katrina – is a memory.