A short tale of glimmers of beauty amidst destruction
The wind howled, and the rain pounded the roof as the residents of a small gulf coast town in Florida huddled together in fear. The hurricane hit the coast with full force—a slow-moving, swirling demon of centrifugal and other forces comprising rain bands, 155-mile-per-hour sustained winds, and a 20-ft storm surge, leaving destruction in its wake, flooding streets, destroying homes, and killing people and animals.
Fourteen-year-old Samantha and her family were among the lucky ones. They had evacuated to a shelter farther inland just in time, escaping the hurricane’s wrath.
As they huddled together in the crowded room, they could hear the storm raging outside. Samantha felt sad thinking about their home, possessions, and memories left behind.
“Mom, what’s going to happen to our house?” Samantha’s younger sister, Bethann, asked their mother, her voice trembling with fear.
“I don’t know, sweetie. We’ll have to wait and see.”
Samantha thought of the ones who stayed behind during the storm.
Some days later, the town’s residents returned to their homes and businesses to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives. Samantha’s family returned home, only to find it destroyed. The hurricane’s winds had torn off the roof, shattered the windows, and caved in the walls. A grey-brown mud covered everything they had ever owned and was hardening into cement-like strength in the sun.
Samantha mourned as she observed her ruined home. Memories of laughter, tears, and the love they shared there flooded her thoughts. The home and all its furniture had disappeared, either buried in mud or taken away by the hurricane.
During the clean-up, Samantha saw something shining in the sunlight. She walked over to investigate and gasped when she realized what it was. It was her grandmother’s locket, which she had worn daily since her grandmother passed away. Samantha had taken it off before jumping in the shower. While she was in the shower, her dad had said they had gotten the evacuation order. She had forgotten to put it on in the rush to evacuate. It had somehow survived the hurricane, a small glimmer of hope amid all the destruction.
Samantha picked up the locket and clenched it in her hand, tears streaming down her face. She knew it was just a tiny thing, but it meant everything to her. It symbolized the love she had shared with her grandmother.
With time, the residents rebuilt their homes and lives. Samantha’s family was no exception. Her parents took all the steps to get help. They joined community groups that bartered services and worked to build a home farther inland, replace what they had lost, and create a new set of memories. Despite the hurricane’s destruction, there was hope in the air. The community united, supported each other, and became more vital than before.
Samantha accepted that things had changed irrevocably. The scars of the hurricane were a constant reminder of the destruction.
Three years later, Samantha watched the coastal sunset, the seagulls swirling in the light breeze, the splash now and then of a dolphin breaking the surface. She had gotten her driver’s license a month before and had driven Bethann and herself over to the street where they used to live. They had to park a couple of blocks east and walk in. The hurricane’s scars were still visible in their coastal neighborhood and many residents had either moved inland or to another state.
Bethann ran up to her.
“Look what I found!”
Samantha turned to see her sister holding a tiny seashell, its delicate pink and white hues gleaming in the setting sun.
Samantha smiled at her sister.
“Where’d you find it?”
“In the rubble of our old house. The post that Dad hammered into the ground after the hurricane still has the street number he painted on it, although it’s faded. I thought the seashell might bring us some luck.”
Samantha took the seashell from her sister’s hand and held it up to the light. It was a small thing, just like her grandmother’s locket.
“I think it already has.”
Samantha hugged her sister close.
Hurricane Idalia hit Florida on Wednesday, August 30, 2023 (10 days before this story posted).
People are worried about funding to rebuild flood-prone infrastructure.
Meteorologists say that the Gulf of Mexico's hot temperatures can create more dangerous storms, and the hurricane season is not over yet.
Insurance coverage in some Gulf states is no longer available, making it challenging for homeowners and businesses to recover from disasters.
It's hard to strengthen buildings against future hurricanes without a strong insurance market.
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