August 13, 2020

Hurricane Matthew

The Savannah Film Fest was this last week: an eight-day film extravaganza in the always quaint downtown. This same town which rolled out the red carpet despite having weathered Hurricane Matthew only two weeks prior.

While our house (built in 1936) managed the storm just fine, I wanted to post images of what my neighborhood looked like once we were allowed back after the evacuation. Downtown was hit much harder than we were, though we were without power for four days.

Please note that I am not a photographer. When I took these photos, I was sending them to friends who had not yet returned, who wanted to see the conditions they would find. I tried to make sure to cover any identifying information and in some cases, had to adjust the color scales. Again, I am not a photographer.

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Because the Savannah Film Festival came off so well, and because I heard so many compliments from visiting filmmakers, I wanted to share these images so everyone could see how much work had to be done to clean up our City of Trees.

There is also a cautionary tale to be found in the experience. The worst part of the hurricane was not the weather or the downed trees or the lack of electricity: it was the fear mongering. Everyone was worried about looting. So much so, that some people stayed for that reason alone.

We had evacuated to North Georgia, and I worried about our house. I worried that I hadn’t brought the right things with me, worried that our house would flood and all of my books, childhood drawings, family photos got destroyed. Then I worried that someone would break into our house afterwards and take our things. That thought suddenly transformed into relief. I began to secretly hope that the hurricane HAD relieved my of the burden of my stuff. That I no longer had to carry around all of our framed pictures, books I know I will never read again, but somehow cannot give away.

When we came back and found our house untouched and the fridge tepid, I was more content than I’d ever been before. My house was beautiful, and how lucky I felt after working this hard to have a beautiful home.  Our first night back was maybe one of the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had. I was in my own bed, with my husband. There were no loud noises from the street, no cars or music or arguments wafting on the breeze. We slept with our windows open for the first time in this house.

The day after was filled with neighbors checking in with neighbors, making sure everyone had food and water, charging cell phones in their cars. The streets were alive in a way I had never seen: people sitting on porches, eager to share hurricane experiences, but happy despite the trouble. There were no TVs to distract us from our community, no internet to fuel our fears.

For two nights, I looked into the night sky, finally seeing stars from my front porch. My neighborhood had never felt safer.

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