By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published September 21, 2017
Sept. 11, 2:58 p.m. Tropical Storm Irma is stomping her way through my neighborhood in Decatur. The electricity is flickering on and off, sirens are screaming in the distance and the lumbering trees surrounding my house are swaying precipitously.
Irma has been downgraded from hurricane status following her tirade in Florida, but she’s still packing a mighty wallop. If she uproots my neighbor’s gigantic oak tree and hurls it at my house, all bets are off. But I’m trying not to imagine the worst.
7:30 p.m. Irma tore the bird feeder off the front window, and hurled it across the yard—and she’s absconded with the electricity. As she throws buckets of water at my house, I remind myself this situation is like camping. You must be ready to battle the elements and endure a few hardships.
Problem is, I’ve never liked camping.
Fortunately, I’m safe inside with my trusty cat, Mr. Fuzziwuz, hunkered down beside me. Still, this is my first big storm without my husband, who was skilled at reassuring me when things got scary—which they definitely have.
8:33 p.m. Mr. Fuzziwuz abandoned me to hide in his safe space down the hall.
For supper I ate partially frozen chicken I’d been defrosting before the storm hit. Let me assure you this delicacy won’t catch on with the foodies any time soon.
Father John Azar, from St. John Chrysostom Melkite Church, emailed parishioners and friends to say he was lighting candles and praying for them. This gesture roused me from my descent into self-pity, and I lit votive candles to remind me of the light of Christ.
Then I settled in to watch a movie on my laptop. “This isn’t so bad,” I told myself.
Moments later, Irma, who must be a mind reader, usurped the Wi-Fi connection, so my landline phone and cellphone have joined the ranks of noncompliant technology.
Outside it’s pitch black and I can barely make out the outline of neighbors’ houses. I recall the Gospel scene where the apostles were battling a storm at sea and saw Jesus walking toward them. I utter Peter’s simple prayer: “Lord, save me!”
Heading to bed early, I realize that in case of emergency, I couldn’t email, text or call anyone.
“I’m totally in your hands, Lord,” I say—which is where we all are constantly—but storms serve as stark reminders. I also utter the childhood prayer, “If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”
Sept. 12, 6 a.m. I awaken in the dark, feed Mr. Fuzziwuz and look longingly at the cold coffee pot. There’s still no power, but Irma has vamoosed—and I’m grateful no trees hit the house overnight.
7 p.m. My friends take me to supper at a restaurant that has electricity. Many trees are down, traffic lights aren’t working and some streets are closed.
Sept. 13, 10 a.m. Laptop in tow, I head to a coffee shop, which has power—and is filled with folks checking emails. I’m delighted to learn my Florida relatives made it through the storm fine. I’m saddened, however, to read about so many people enduring great suffering from Irma.
5:30 p.m. I attend evening Mass by candlelight, since the church lacks electricity too. We pray for the many victims of Irma.
8:00 p.m. I’m reading “Robinson Crusoe” by lantern light, which seems fitting for the occasion. Compared to his adventures on an uninhabited island, I’m in fine shape.
Sept. 14, 7:30 a.m. How fondly I recall my standard breakfast of oatmeal and freshly brewed coffee. Still, I remind myself of all the people worldwide who live without luxuries I take for granted. Desperate for a caffeine fix, I make instant coffee with hot tap water—and discover the perfect sacrifice for next Lent.
2:30 p.m. The lamps are glowing! The refrigerator is humming! I rush to the grocery store and buy food, then head home to do laundry.
Sept. 15, 9 a.m. I’m enjoying steaming hot coffee and oatmeal for breakfast. Thank you, God! I’ll continue praying for the victims of Hurricane Irma. And I promise never to take electricity for granted again.
Artwork by Jef Murray (“Rescue,” oil painting). Lorraine’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.