When I met Ivan
2004 was when I met Ivan. Who's Ivan..? He was a brutal category 5 hurricane that hit where I was living in the Caymen Islands head on.
But the music that was being played after...
I shall take you back to the beginning. it was September 2004, I remember the month easily as it was my birthday month.
We had the warnings it was coming, we were given the option by our bosses to leave the island and head to main land Florida if we wanted to. No-one was prepared for what was coming - not mentally anyway.
Of course all the barriers flew up and an abundance of sand bags covering every inch possible around houses and buildings, people panic buying toilet roll and tinned food as we had no idea what the impact was going to be and for how long.
Us though, me and my work colleagues, fellow Brits, Canadians, South Africans, locals and Americas, well we just went along with what we thought was the right thing to do.
I lived in an apartment with my friend Jon, on the first floor.
It was eerie. There was a stillness in the air. The clouds were making weird formations in the sky, the wind was blowing in unfamiliar ways.
Jon and I were watching the news on the TV, then it stopped working. We looked at each other with a silent horror - it was coming.
Another friend came round, Jo a fellow Brit, with a large supply of rum!! It was early evening, we had the discussion that we needed to make a plan B as it wasn't going to be safe staying in our apartment. We packed up our valuables (passport, change of clothes, teddy!) and off we went to the main bank building which was built to withstand hurricanes as it was solid concrete. Time was running out as doors were beginning to be secured up and we had to get into somewhere quick. We climbed the stairs up the floors we went with the wind now howling through any crack or window, the sky had darkened, people had hit histeria, others in a calm numbness.
We were on a level on bare grey concrete with other families. We camped out on the edge of the floor by a window. I looked out and all I could see was horizontal rain, palm trees that were bent over at a 90 degree angle and a horse. It was just standing there with it's bum turned to the wind. My heart went out to it. It was time to crack open the rum!
Then silence decended.
We hadn't sleep at all even though we were in darkness with light only coming from candles.
The wind had died down outside, spirits began to lift, there was a beautiful ray of sunlight shining through, we had got through it.
We were in a false sense of security as we were right in the middle of the eye of the storm.....here we go again.
We had survived the night. the storm had now passed. Jon said he was going to go and see what it was like outside and check on our home.
He returned, his face was ashen the colour drained from his skin. I took one look at him and he looked at me with a very small shake of his head to let me know that we did not have a home any longer.
When you see these movies of people who are given news and they literally have there legs go from under them, yep, that does actually happen. We were alive though, we had each other, we needed to make sure our other friends were ok and to let our families back home know we were alive too.
The chaos outside was undescribable. People everywhere, some crying, howling, others in a total state of shock, weeping, some just sitting staring in the void. All the landmarks were gone. My neighbours told me that they saw my clothes go flying off into the storm and they were so glad we didn't remain in the apt as there was nothing left of it. My car, my beloved Toyota, had filled up with water and drained back out and STILL fired up! It did die a slow death and had to be abandoned though.
Came in the form of another fellow Brit called Katie. She took me in as her house was still liveable. She lived very close to the sea which ended up being our communial washing and bathing area. We did our number 2's in plastic bags as there was no running water (not at the same time!) we had managed to find some beer (warm, but that did not matter!) and even a chocolate bar that we all shared for my actual birthday!
We were near the capital of Caymen, called George Town. We had a wonder around to see the devastation. I remember vividly a truck driving around with locals sat all over it, with their drums and homemade instruments just singing. Singing to be alive, singing that we were all still here, singing that there was still an island.(I later learned that the island had been completely underwater that even the satellites couldn't locate Caymen).
It was like going back in time before running water and electricity. We knew that we would get through this, didn't know how, but together we supported each other.
We had found one lady who's telephone had very intermittent signal, as my angel knew her she was so very kind that we could make a super quick call back home to let our family know we were ok. My mum was so relieved to hear my voice. News had reached the UK of people looting (stealing) from shops with machetes, I can only imagine what kind of horror she had pictured in her mind.
I eventually got a ticket to Florida then to the UK. It happened all so quickly that I managed to scrape some dollars together to make a fleeting call to mum with my flight number, destination airports and landing time and hoped for the best that she would be there to pick me up.
The flight was the quietest flight I have ever been on. The crew were so empathetic to us, giving us water and food during the flight.
The reason to share this part of my past with you is that no matter what lifes circumstances are thrown at you, often out of your control, it is your own reactions which are key. Don't get me wrong, yes I did totally crap myself about what was happening, but being with others supported me. It was holding the faith that it CAN only get better - which it did. These stories we all have we can keep reliving the patterns of fear, the 'poor me' or we can learn from them to make us stronger and grateful. Because acting with LOVE is really what makes the world go round.