Wednesday, January 29, 2014

No Laughing Matter

Northern blood runs through my veins, I even have the birth certificate to prove it.

I was in Alabama for the Blizzard of 1993.

I lived in Washington, and drove to Vancouver, BC in the depths of winter just for the fun of it.

I traveled cross country three weeks post Cesarean Section, with a newborn and three cats, in a vehicle by myself in late December.
Just so happened it was during a massive ice/snow storm.
It was an incredibly trying time and one of those moments in life when a "do over" would be totally acceptable.

I'm not fragile and I'm somewhat smart.

Despite my overwhelming hatred of the Alabama "summers" (March through September), I love Alabama.
I have always said that Southern Hospitality isn't just a phrase, it's a way of life.
So, although I claim my Northern heritage, I still find myself gearing up for battle when the rest of our great country seems to think we all walk around in bath robes with sponge rollers in our hair.
Some of us actually remember to take the rollers out - before we leave the house.

This winter ice storm that hit Alabama - is no laughing matter.

My family, was incredibly fortunate.
Our story does not hold an eye-catching title or envelope acts of unbridled heroism.

Our story is identical to thousands of others.

We were not one of the stranded motorists.
We didn't have to sleep on the side of the road
 we were all together at night's end.

Like so many other people, we stood, glued to the windows at work, watching the first snowflakes of the year start to fall.

After all, it's a familiar routine.
Snowflakes fall.
School closings begin.

Within minutes of the first snowflakes,

we received notification that schools were closing.

Chris and I are both beyond grateful to have an employer that allows us the flexibility to leave - at a moments notice - to go and get our children.

We gathered our things and left and by the time we made it to the exit of the parking deck, we realized that the beautiful snowflakes brought with them - sheets of ice.

We had no warning and never once that morning did it cross our minds that tragedy was in store for so many people.

Thank goodness that a friend and fellow co-worker was riding home with us, because that forced me to act better than I really felt.
I owe a debt of gratitude to Holly C. for keeping our spirits uplifted and for helping us along this journey.

According to Google Maps - we live 8.7 miles from work.
On that 8.7 mile stretch of road, we pass Julien's school and Addie's school - talk about convenience.  

Reality really started to set in when we realized that people were abandoning their cars and walking - on the street in front of us.

I started to get anxious when Julien called to tell me that the buses were no longer going to run and that we would have to come and pick him up.  
When a turn onto a main road that typically takes less than five minutes, took over three hours, I had to force myself to remain calm.
There was no going back.

It wasn't much longer after that when I received a call from one of Addie's teachers telling me that the school was preparing for the children to - spend the night at school.
Has something like that ever crossed my mind.

I was completely at peace knowing that Addie's teachers were with her and that she was safe and well taken care of.
However, I was absolutely sick not knowing how or when - we would get to Julien. 
We knew that the only two options were to have him - and a friend we were picking up - walk down the hill to the main road or either we had to park and walk up the hill to get them.
It truly was one of the most difficult decisions to make because I knew that if anything ever happened to them, I would never forgive myself.

By the time we finally got to Julien, almost five hours had passed since we left work and we still had to get to Addie.

Right after we got to Julien, we learned that the road into our little town was blocked - a semi truck had overturned and there were two bridges that were impassable until the sand trucks arrived.

It was a very disheartening moment.

The rest of the story involves an extremely long walk, sweaty gym socks, flip flops, suit pants and favorite three inch heels, and puddles of frozen urine.
The story also involves two very smart girls and two teenage boys taking a ride from a complete stranger despite all that they have ever been taught, complete emotional exhaustion and an almost eight hour journey to get to a little Monkey and then to the comfort of home.

We were incredibly fortunate.
We made it home - safely - and with our children.
Our journey was a walk in the park compared to what other people are going through.
We have no complaints.

There is no one to blame and only endless gratitude for the people who watched over our children until we could get to them, the kindness of strangers and the immense loyalty to an employer who truly represents a caring company.

There are so many people still not with their families tonight and thank heaven for the people working desperately to ensure their safety.

This wasn't a little dusting of snow and truly is no laughing matter.


Jeania said...

Was thinking about you when I saw the ice storm down there! So glad that you guys are safe!

Granna said...

I know this sounds crazy from a lady you have never met...but when I saw your post on FB about the kids being at school...I got so worried, especially about Addie. I wasn't certain how she would react to such a change in routine if she had to spend the night at school. I was also stranded, but made it to a relative's home and was glad to get there. I am so tired of people assuming we were all over-reacting and just did not know how to handle the snow. The snow we can handle- the ice in this hilly area is another story.

Jenn said...

Granna - thank you so much for your kind words and thoughts. I knew Addie was safe, but yes, I was extremely worried about getting to her. She had so much fun playing with her friends, but having to stay the night is a valid concern that we had.
I am so thankful for her teachers and "helpers" at school. There is no doubt that they would have protected her throughout the night had we not been able to get to her. Our goal was to get to her even if we were unable to make it the rest of the way home.
I just made a wise choice by picking a pants suit and comfy heels when I got dressed Tuesday morning. Who knew I would be hiking down the side of a major highway in ice and snow. :) Luckily, the kindness of strangers helped facilitate our safe arrival.
Thank you again for always being so kind!