A little more than two weeks ago, as Hurricane Irma rapidly intensified in the Atlantic, my family made the decision to leave our house in Miami and head to Georgia.
This was not a decision I took lightly. Packing up our most precious belongings and important documents pained me. Everything in our home for the last 20 years held a memory.
How do you choose what is worth taking and what can stay behind? The idea that my home could not exist when I returned was difficult to wrap my mind around. But the storm and the chaos surrounding it provided a better perspective on the temporariness of material possessions.
Gas was scarce as we traveled up north, and the trip lasted twice as long as normal because of evacuation traffic. Most of my family and friends remained in Miami, hoping for the best, so in Georgia, I felt disconnected from my home. With little to no cell service, we couldn’t reach loved ones.
Despite living my whole life in Miami and experiencing hurricanes, witnessing Irma was different because it was unpredictable. Schools closed indefinitely, and the state dwelled in an unnerving limbo.
The damage that Irma brought – uprooted trees, smashed cars, flooded streets, death toll of 42 Floridians – was surreal.
In this time, community spirit means everything. Our city needs a united front to restore it to its former glory. Hard times prompt compassion and provide perspective.
People who barely know each other lend a hand at local food and supply drives. Citizens gather in the most damaged neighborhoods to clear debris.
The University of Miami pioneered this rebuilding period by extending an opportunity for our community to volunteer in a Hurricane Irma relief service day. UM also partnered with the Red Cross and United Way to provide additional support to funding relief projects. This collective effort displayed recently by UM and local residents of Miami is inspiring.
The unknown gives you time to reflect on what is actually important in life. This natural disaster made me more grateful for my life and the people in it.
We may have a rocky hurricane season still ahead of us, but the proactive and dedicated response to Irma instills hope that we will be more than ready for the next storm.
Nicole Macias is a sophomore majoring in English.