Preparing for Hurricane Irma, Miami-style, is quite an experience.
I hear the urgent call over the sound of drills, sheets of aluminum slapping concrete and chainsaws cutting through palm trunks too close to roofs echoing through my Miami Lakes neighborhood.
Really? They want me to make Cuban coffee again — already!
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But two seconds later, I’m happily brewing another colada for the hard-working self-described “Cuban refugee” duo who braved gasoline shortages and abysmal traffic to come to my rescue as I juggle working and preparing for Hurricane Irma.
They spend the better part of two caffeine-charged days helping me and my neighbors put up shutters without gouging us — when they could have easily done so. “You’re George’s sister,” lead man Pascual tells me. “He helped me when I needed it. You pay me what you can pay me.”
People in fancy cars drive by and offer better pay, but Pascual and his wingman Isidro Batista — their wicked sense of humor and touching worry over the fate of their helpless relatives on the island also in the storm’s path — stick with me until my house turns into a bunker. They reassure me that I’ll be as safe as it gets in the face of this Category 5 killer storm headed our way.
It may be a cliché, but it’s true: In the midst of a crisis, we’re decent to each other. We come to each others’ rescue. We offer shelter. We share scarce resources.
Sure, there are jerks out there — even the angry and murderous — making this terrifying ordeal even more difficult. But, just as we saw incredible acts of heroism in Texas with Harvey, we’re witnessing moving acts of kindness all over Florida.
None more affecting than the story and video posted on Facebook by Orlando WFTV anchor and reporter Nancy Alvarez.
This is what she wrote:
“Pam Bekke’s father is on oxygen.
She ran into a Lowe’s and we watched her break down in tears when she realized she had just missed the last generator.
A total stranger, Ramon Santiago, saw her too. He walked up and insisted she take his.”
Incredulous, Bekke broke into sobs and tears, hugged Ramon, and couldn’t let go.
“Writing through tears and with a heart full of pride for my community,” Alvarez ended her note.
And now, you and I are crying, too.
Thank you, Ramon, for lifting our spirits on an overwhelming day when we’re learning that we’re not escaping the biggest storm on record.
We’ll need the heroes, the workhorses, the compassionate.
Like a lot of us, Miami-Dade Battalion Fire Chief Abel Fernandez was waiting in line for gasoline at 3:30 a.m. Thursday when he noticed that the person inside the car in front of him was just sitting there and not using the pump.
“I went up to her and asked her if she was OK,” Fernandez said. “She told me that she just couldn’t get out of her car. She was paralyzed by fear. Holding her hand, I asked her to let me help her and she agreed. I filled her car and told her to relax. That she will be all right.”
As I write this, Fernandez is out there putting up shutters for the elderly and disabled. He posted this message on Facebook: “Folks, be compassionate, patient and understanding during this emergency, and really, always. I learned a lesson myself and thanked God for the opportunity to reflect. Patience is something I must practice myself.”
How lovely to see Pinecrest Bakery pouring free cafecitos to people waiting in line for gasoline, and likewise, Walls Old Fashioned Ice Cream scooping out free ice cream for the weary at a South Miami gas queue.
How comforting it is to hear the cashier at McDonald’s in Westchester say “Be safe” after she takes your money and the self-check-out helper from New Orleans, working too many long hours at the Target in Miramar, get into a spirited exchange of blessings with you. Oh, yeah, we shall overcome you, too, Irma.
“Teamwork!” my neighbor Rene called how we fixed a big, big last-minute problem.
Putting up our shutters, we realized that neither one of us had enough clasps to finish the job. I tracked down the last stash left in town at a Medley manufacturer. Rene jumped in his car and took off after them. I used my reporting skills. He suffered through the traffic. Everyone I told in my moment of great panic, from Jacksonville to next door, set out to find me those clasps. My year-round knight-in-shinning-armor neighbor, Miguel, went on eBay and ordered me a bunch at an ungodly price and a promised Saturday delivery. No charge.
We’re terrified and the fellowship simply makes us feel better, accompanied, assisted at this terrible time. Please, let’s see more of it as the days unfold. We can’t control Hurricane Irma’s fury, but we can control how we react to the catastrophe.
We’re in this one together.