20 September, 2004

Hurricane Ivan

"It is as though we're fleeing Saigon circa 1975." --Matt (aka The Blessed Lunatic)

Such was said as we pulled out of the driveway of Spring Hill College to our salvation from the upcoming flood: Matt's house. To tell the truth, at the time it did not seem to be that big a deal. I've experienced more than a few hurricanes (once even in the eye of a hurricane), so I felt like I knew what I was talking about. "If they evacuate the college, it will be just to please the parents who've never been through a hurricane," I told Matt only hours before. "Hurricanes are bad only in that they affect large areas; it can't possibly do anything that damaging here at the college." Matt nodded agreeably in the way that he does when he totally disagrees with you yet doesn't wish to voice his disagreement. "Even if they do issue an evacuation order, it won't be that bad. Trust me on this one. I've swum in pools many a time while a hurricane raged overhead."

Fast forward ten hours.

I awake with a ringing in my ears as the door is being pounded upon. I steal a quick glance at the alarm clock only to find it pre-8 a.m. -- which might as well be considered the previous day as far as I'm concerned. After grabbing a towel, I stumble to the door and open it slightly, mumbling an incomprehensible greeting.

"Classes are cancelled, and we're shutting down the college. If you're planning on leaving, you have to be gone before 1 in the afternoon, because we're closing the gates then and we won't let anyone in or out. Now are you staying or going?"

It took a few seconds before the question fully registered, and I mumbled under my breath that I didn't know. I don't think he could have heard me, but he must have been used to dealing with this barely-awake state when he gave his spiel to the odd dozen students before me, because he immediately replied with: "Well, if you're staying, then sign your name on my door. Otherwise, be out by 1 p.m."

I quickly got dressed and went to Matt's room. I'm not sure exactly what I planned upon saying once I got there, but I went anyway. On the way over, I glanced at the hurricane evacuation sheet they gave us. It clearly said that the people who were staying would have to stay in the hallways of the basement of Murray.

Now I'm not sure if this has been made clear to others already or not, but Murray Hall is a condemned building. I knew right then and there that there was no way that I'd be staying on campus.

Somehow, minutes later, I found myself invited to Matt's house. At the time, I wasn't sure if it was a good thing or a bad thing. Hell, even now I don't know if it was a good thing or a bad thing. But I accepted nonetheless. My alternative was Russ's house, and though I would have loved to stay there, I assume it would have been crowded what with David, Russ's family, and the illegal immigrants that Russ talks about all the time. Well, that wasn't the deciding factor. The deciding factor was that Matt was vegetarian like me, so I felt better about the food issue.

But I have to admit that despite all of this, as Matt related our departure to that of helicopters speeding away from Saigon, I still did not think that it could be that bad.

Boy, was I wrong.

The eye of the hurricane hit Gulf Shores, Alabama, where my sister Anh currently resides with our mother, and the winds were so bad there that it picked up their carport and threw it on their vehicle. The roof of the shed was also torn away and flew to who knows where. Thankfully there were no trees in their yard, or else it might have been much worse than it was. Strangely, my ten-year-old sister slept through the whole thing.

My grandmother, who lives in Mobile not five kilometers away from me, lost the roof of her shed, a portion of her fence, and electricity indefinitely. My uncle Mike went to check on her just after the hurricane, found that there was no air conditioning in the house, and forced her to retreat to Gulfport, Mississippi, for a few days. But when they got back, there still wasn't any electricity there, and even as of now she is w/o power. I would worry more about her, but my cousin Amanda is dropping by there every day after school, so she should be okay.

Pensacola, Florida, was hit the worst of all, as it was the largest city closest on the eastern side of the hurricane; I know of only one friend that lives there, but thankfully she and her family is okay. The city was hit very badly, and she said that the houses around her were all torn and tattered, but her house suffered only the loss of siding and electricity.

But despite the death toll attributed to the hurricane and the seriousness of the aftereffects surrounding it, the one thing that keeps coming back into my mind are those damned lovebugs. As Matt and I drove down the interstate both ways we could not help but kill them in droves, splattering across the windshield and grill. As Matt so aptly commented: "Whole families of them are being massacred; and there's absolutely nothing that I can do about it!" We were driving a death machine, killing and maiming by the hundreds. It was horrible. Plus, the windshield was so scattered with white guts that we could barely make out the road.

And if you add to all of this the departure of Alaina from Herbie's house, an issue of a debt I haven't the possibility of immediate repayment, and the foreknowledge of three long and difficult upcoming tests one after the other starting on the morn... ::sigh::

Well, to tell the truth, I feel quite prone to agreeing with Matt's self-acknowledged mantra: Everything sucks.