No, really. I used to think it was just me.
September 11, 2001: my sweet sixteen. New York City. Twin Towers. Pentagon. Flight 93.
September 11, 2012: my 27th birthday. Benghazi. Perhaps the most tragic event ever used for political gain.
September 11, 2017: my 32nd birthday. Hurricane Irma. The most intense hurricane to strike the U.S. since Katrina (2005).
The latter, however, is the first catastrophic birthday I have celebrated with two little ones at my side.
The day began at approximately 4:30 a.m. My son had detected the first strong gusts of wind to reach our area. This, of course, inspired our four-year-old to channel that fear forcefully across the house to his sweetly sleeping parents.
A little boy stood in our darkened door frame and shouted “I’m scared!” at the top of his lungs.
I was reminded that sleep is a luxury in parenting, especially on your birthday.
We had been preparing for close to a week for Hurricane Irma and were surprised when we woke up to electricity. First World anxiety.
The kids were clearly flustered. My daughter kept pointing to the window and repeating “RAIN!” with a mix of terror and excitement, while my son kept asking about when he could return to school. Ah, teacher kid.
They couldn’t keep calm. I had to think fast (for my own sanity). So I told my little boy to draw the storm. He chose to capture the “eyeball”.
Inevitably, a hurricane outside means a hurricane inside if you have small children. So, naturally, the kids proceeded to mirror the destruction they sensed was coming.
In these things, my husband’s frustration was palpable. There would be no glitz or adventure on this birthday. After all, even our local Walmart was closed.
But he persevered to prepare a special stir-fry lunch, with the full expectation that this would likely be our last home-cooked meal with electricity for a while. In lieu of a cake, he whipped up peach turnovers with random ingredients from around the kitchen.
And, incredibly, the day began to feel like a real birthday.
After lunch, the kids even cooperated for the obligatory “mom’s birthday” picture. And, yes, I was STILL in my pajamas!
But just when we thought my birthday might escape the clutches of Irma, the sound of a transformer echoed in the distance. Our power went out within five minutes of putting the kids down for nap.
Now we could have kept the kids indoors the rest of the day, but, you know, we, too, wanted to survive. So we booted up and explored the new backyard river.
It was a picturesque five minutes of warm breezes and splashing. But, then, the rain resumed.
My husband and I watched as the kids played in increasingly darkened rooms. And we faced a choice: stay and be 100% safe or escape to our friends’ home. Technically, our locality was still under curfew.
Within 15 minutes, we found ourselves on blustery backroads. And familiar faces welcomed us with open arms and running water.
For the last 16 birthdays, my life has been celebrated beneath the cloud of great loss. But this year I received the greatest gift: the saving of life.
I praise God for the evacuees who made it out.
I praise God for protecting those who stayed.
I praise God for our loss of power but our gaining another day.
And throughout another memorable September 11, I was reminded that, when we have love, we have everything we need and so much more than we deserve.
One Year Ago: Embracing Discomfort (My First Year Blogging)