Stories from the Field: Jane

Jane in the Choir Loft

Jane stands near an open door at the top of the choir loft at Big Pine UMC.

Jane’s story begins with another couple.  As Irma’s path became more decidedly set for the Keys, a couple who lived in a trailer near the end of Little Torch Key asked if they could ride out the storm in their church, Big Pine United Methodist Church, fearful of what would happen to their home.  Jane and her husband discussed this idea with their fellow church trustees, ultimately deciding this was a good idea not only for the couple, but for Jane and her husband as well.

The four of them started in Room 6, with couches and a coffee maker.  Those essentials made that room seem like the best place for them to be, but before long, water started pouring in under the door.  They needed to move and move fast.  The overhang around the courtyard provided some shelter as they moved into the sanctuary, which was elevated slightly higher than the rest of the church.

Once there, Jane sat at the piano and started to play hymns.  “It was Sunday, after all,” she told us.  As the water rose, she continued to play for their small congregation.  Every so often, she would look up and mark its progress.  Soon, it surpassed the elevated platform where they were gathered, and they retreated, Jane surrendering the piano, higher on the platform into the altar area, then the few steps into the choir loft.  As the water continued to rise, they quickly lifted the alter table up into the choir loft with them before the water touched it.  They sat on top of it, debating which hanging lights would make the best handholds when the time came.

In the end, the water stopped a mere two inches below the main body of the piano, just below the last step of the choir loft.

Big Pine UMC

The damage at Big Pine UMC

The following Wednesday, a group from Israel arrived with one purpose in mind.  They had flown into JFK, to Atlanta, then driven the 10 hours to the Keys despite jet lag. They only wanted to know what they could do to help. By this point, the residents of the Keys had been without power, running water, and food lines for 4 days. The local fire department and police were empty, not answering the phone as Jane’s husband’s daughter called again and again, desperate for news (Jane would learn this later).  All the couples wanted was a way to let their families know they were alive.  So the group from Israel took pictures of them all and put them on Facebook.  These photos went viral, and almost immediately their families found the pictures and were able to find a way to communicate.

Jane and her plants

Jane tends to the plants she salvaged from Irma

In the midst of it all, another small miracle emerged: Once the waters had receded enough to try and reclaim what was left of their lives, the couples dispersed back to their homes, to find them both still there, though many others were not so lucky.  Jane even managed to find the plants she’d worked so hard growing in their church renovation project.  She potted them and nursed them back to health.  She figured that if they – like she – had survived Irma, they could handle anything.


We hope Jane’s story has brought you some level of insight into the eye of Irma.  Leave your questions or comments below; we’ll do our best to address them.

Love and peace,

Anne and Sarah

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