The Unique Experience of Being Terrified from over 7,000 Miles Away

Recently, Jason and I were very fortunate to be able to take a trip to Japan for our first anniversary. Japan is a place I have been fascinated with and have wanted to visit since I was probably about 10 years old when my mom let me watch the Shogun miniseries when it was being re-run on TV. It is a place that, even from early on in our relationship, Jason and I both agreed we wanted to travel to together some day. We had a fantastic time on the trip and in the next few weeks I’m excited to share some highlights of the trip as well as some tips/recommendations for anyone looking to take a trip to Japan in posts on the blog. However, this post has a slightly different purpose.

I can’t remember exactly what day it was, but early on in our trip, I noticed a few Florida friends posting on Facebook about a certain Hurricane Irma which was hanging out in the Atlantic and building in intensity.

I didn’t have a good feeling about her and neither did my friends, especially after Harvey, but she was still rather far away in the Atlantic, so I put her in the back of my mind for a day or two.

But then Irma continued to intensify and what was even more worrying was that there was no consensus in the spaghetti models about where she would end up. The models literally forecasted that she could hit anywhere from Mexico to Canada. 

The days continued and the news was only getting worse. Irma was a strong Category 4 or 5 storm, depending on the day. Caribbean islands were hit and reports were coming in that 90 to 95% of structures on those islands were destroyed. Irma was now the size of the entire state of Florida. And still, Irma’s projected path changed with every update from NOAA. Would it miss Florida all together? Would it slam the east coast? Miami? Would it swing up under Florida and hit the west coast?

In the last day or two we were in Japan, while there were still many unknowns, two things became abundantly clear: 1. Florida would be taking a direct hit, and 2. it would be happening on Sunday, the day Jason and I would be on a 12-hour flight back to the States.

The mix of emotions I began to feel was complex.

I can’t even begin to describe how gut-wrenching it was to be terrified for your friends and family who are staring down a Category 4 or 5 storm, but to be over 7,000 miles away.

Coming to terms with the fact that my childhood home might be destroyed by this storm was not a foreign concept considering I grew up in Florida and this is not the first mega storm to threaten it, but this time it just felt different. Not to mention that this was just the beginning of the worst-case scenarios that were running through my brain.

I felt truly helplessness in speaking with friends and family who were trying to put on a brave face, but I could hear the underlying fear in their voices.

I simultaneously felt guilty that I was having an amazing time in Japan. “I should be there” kept repeating in my mind over and over again.

I don’t know if I would have felt any differently if we were at home in North Carolina, but I think at least in that situation I could have offered friends and family a place to evacuate to if they wanted to leave. Hell, I probably could have even gone down to help my parents prepare (which I’m sure they would have fought me on, but I likely would have ignored them).

Overall, the inability to do anything productive in the face of an impending disaster was a harrowing experience I hope to never have to repeat, and it pales only in comparison to the stress and anxiety that I know my friends and family were going through having to actually live through the storm itself.

Now that the storm has passed, I am happy to report that, thank God, all my family and friends, along with their homes, made it through the storm unscathed or with minimal damage.

Right now we are in the month of Elul on the Jewish calendar, which is an important time of reflection as we are approaching the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I can confidently say this storm has given me quite a bit to both reflect on and be thankful for at this time. May we never see a disaster like this ever again and may those who are still suffering from the effects of the storm receive the help they need to get their lives back to normal.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *