By: Donna Hale Chandler
My husband and I were excited to finally retire and move to our little condo in Port St. Lucie. We had no qualms about leaving Michigan weather behind and were looking forward to sunny winters. Our trip south to our new home began Labor Day week-end, 2004.
We were floating on clouds as we pulled into the condominium community where my mother had lived happily for several years. It had been a long drive and we had lots of boxes to unload and unpack. Our bodies may have been tired but our minds were still traveling a mile a minute as we saw a new future on our horizon.
As soon as word reached my mother that we had arrived, she was at our door, spitting orders about hurricane supplies that must be gathered right away. I must admit that I was rather annoyed with her. After all we had serious boxes of ‘stuff’ to put away before thinking about batteries and water. She seemed determined to dampen our good mood with lists and more lists of what needed to be stocked.
At last, we relented and ventured out to the stores for water, batteries, canned food – you know, Hurricane Supplies. We were sure that we were wasting our time but it made my mother happy so how could we refuse.
During the night of September 5, Hurricane Francis came screaming ashore. As power was the first thing we lost we could only listen to the howling wind and pounding rain. The next morning, it appeared we made moved to hell. It was hotter than hot. Helicopters were in the sky watching for looters. As we moved slowly from day to day, we began to wonder if we’d made a wise decision moving to No Electricity Land.
We learned a lot as we suffered through the aftermath of Frances. Not only did we learn how important those Hurricane Supplies were, we learned that you cannot make a cup of instant coffee over a candle, we learned that MRE’s taste like the Food of the Gods when you’re hungry and of course we learned the importance of water – cold water was in small supply.
About the time the lights came back on and the a/c began to cool our upstairs condo, Hurricane Jeanne came barreling through, throwing us once again into the darkness and the heat. Again, we were lining up for ice and water from volunteers with the Red Cross and other organizations. Again, we were checking on neighbors that we’d barely met and instantly bonded with over a cup of coffee boiled on an outdoor grill.
Years later I can look back and laugh at the fact that my mother had to drive me to the water/ice lines as I had no proof of residency. It became quite a joke that I finally was old enough to retire but not old enough to go out after dark without my mama. As I look back on these memories both my husband and my mother have passed away but back in 2004, we were quite the team as we stood together again Frances and Jeanne.