What’s Important?

Even at five years old, I knew what was valuable, what I wanted to hold on to.  From a window of our third-floor apartment, as I watched cars floating down the flooded streets and people being lowered by ropes onto waiting rowboats, I wondered if we would have to leave too.  I felt safe with my younger brother, two male cousins and our two sets of parents . . . until my seven-year old cousin started to pray and then to cry.  Shortly after, we were told that we too would be evacuated.  I grabbed my fluffy, white pet rabbit and hurried down the stairs where a boat waited to row us down the street and the sidewalk that I had tricycled upon the week before.

We never know when disaster can strike and our lives can change forever. At twelve, living on the top floor of a two-family house, right next to my Dad’s variety store, we were planning a birthday celebration for the newest addition to our family. My baby brother was turning one-year old. My mom had gone next door to help my dad so that he could get something to eat prior to the company arriving.

The doorbell rang. “They’re early,” I thought, wondering what guests would be the first to arrive. But It was our downstairs neighbors frantically telling us to get out of the house.  “There’s a fire!” they shouted.  I quickly grabbed my baby brother, and with my other brother, ran down the stairs to my worried mom, who had told customers, “Watch the store!” as she ran to her children.  Thankfully, we were all safe, yet due to the extensive damage, we never moved back. But what seemed like a negative situation turned into a positive . . . my parents bought our first house, which they still live in.

hurricane irma Love is the new CurrencyNow decades later, I find myself looking around my condo at all of the wonderful things that I’ve collected and cherished over many years.  This time there is an advanced warning. Hurricane Irma, destined to be the biggest storm to ever hit Florida, is a little over a day’s time away.

What to take?  While I value some jewelry given to me by loved ones, the letters and pictures that reflect years of friendship and memories, the original, one-of-a-kind art pieces . . . when I ask myself “What’s important and irreplaceable?” the answer is obvious: nothing is as important as the man and the family and friends whom I love, who give significance to my life.
I quickly put some things, including my lap top, in a windowless bathroom, gather a change of clothes in a back pack, water and food for a few days, a flashlight, yoga mats and blankets to sleep on and walk out of my apartment with my partner to settle in at a local shelter, not knowing what we would come back to after Hurricane Irma unleashed her fury.

In sharing a shelter with 1300+ people of various walks of life, political beliefs, colors and creeds, it was clear that many shared similar concerns and it wasn’t for the things left behind.

What was most important was that loved ones and those in the path of danger were safe.

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