We were lucky. Other areas? Not so much.
Anticipating a Category 3 hurricane, Gainesville residents stockpiled water, canned goods and, of course, as much alcohol as we could find. We prepared for the worst and hoped for the best. Luckily, when Irma arrived in the Swamp, we were met with a storm much tamer than expected.
Monday morning some of us woke up without power. Many of us looked outside of our windows to find a street that resembled a swimming pool more than a paved road. Others awoke to a fully functioning home with no oddities in sight other than some stray pieces of debris. Gainesville had no casualties, and the city itself remains relatively intact. Needless to say, we were pretty fortunate.
Although we might have the luxury of resting easily knowing we are safe, other people affected by Irma cannot say the same. According to the Associated Press, 13 people in the U.S. died from storm-related injuries. In the Caribbean, at least 35 people lost their lives.
Not only did people lose their lives, but homes were destroyed, towns were demolished and areas that once held sentimental memories were turned into nothing but tattered bits of debris.
What we all need to realize is that the reality of these recent natural disasters is something people all around us are still dealing with. Millions are still without power and without resources. They continue to live each day with no idea when their lives will go back to normal.
In addition to the physical effects of Irma, many people are struggling with emotional impacts from the storm. Many Gators who hail from other areas of Florida stayed on campus to brave the storm. Even though they themselves remained safe, a number of their families did not. Plenty lost the homes they grew up in, and their families continue to handle the stress of recovering from the storm.
Now that the initial panic is over, it’s easy for us to move on with our lives. We made it out fine, so there isn’t anything else to worry about, right? Wrong.
Just because we are safe, others still need help after Irma. People need help after Harvey. People need help after the recent earthquake in Mexico. People need help preparing for Jose.
We know it’s easy to walk the streets of Gainesville with the sun shining down on you, without a care in the world. We know it’s easy to carry on as though there aren’t people in Jacksonville who can’t leave their house because of flooding, or as though there aren’t people in the Caribbean who lost homes and loved ones. We understand that you want a mental break. We get it, we really do. But unfortunately, it isn’t time to relax just yet.
Now more than ever, we need to come together and do what we can to help those suffering after the recent natural disasters.
You don’t need to travel to disaster areas and rebuild houses, although you can. You don’t need to open your homes to victims, but you can. Helping people who need it can be as easy as donating $5 to a GoFundMe page or as drastic as teaming up with Habitat for Humanity to help rebuild cities and towns.
The impacts of Irma and Harvey are still fresh, and Jose doesn’t lag too far behind. We were lucky but it doesn’t mean we should stop caring. Just as we would have wanted people to do for us, we need to do what we can to help victims of these disasters. Small acts of kindness can go a very long way, and right now, the world needs a lot of them.