When we got the opportunity to visit with Mr. Sam on the #yoamFL2018 trip, I was hesitant. Some of the women from the other group pushed us to go help him, but there was paperwork to be done and permissions to be obtained – a lot of bureaucracy. I knew his home would be untouched, given those parameters. I knew the work would be grueling. I knew he would be overwhelmed before we ever got there. But I’m so glad we went. All it took was one question: “Can you tell me what happened in Hurricane Irma?”, and his story poured out.
Please take 8 minutes and listen to Mr. Sam tell you his story. You won’t regret it. (Transcript below.)
Yeah, I didn’t think it was going to be a bad storm, as bad as the other ones, you know. We’ve seen water before come up and stuff. That’s the worst part of it, really. This time the wind and the water were really bad. Um, the water came up probably 10 or 12 feet. I saw the water coming up to my doorstep, and I figured, “Well, I better get out.”
Oh, I uh, went back inside, and I got my things, and by that time the water was like, well, over a foot. And I tripped on something under the water and fell down and hit my head on the side of the truck – on the metal piece – and it knocked me out until I hit the water. I woke up under water. Um, I got up and blood was running in my eyes and stuff. Finally, I got over there and got my van started and started heading out. And I figured – I didn’t think I was going to make it, because the water was so deep.
And I, uh, drove over kind of slow because the wind was so bad – we were getting wicked gusts. And, uh, I drove over to, uh – I was going down to a safe house, but the water came in too quick. So I went over to CVS – CVS – which was one of the high points of the town, and I got into the parking lot, and there’s like 100 cars there, all parked, so they all had the same idea, but, you know, they all left them there. And, us, as the water came up, I kept going higher and higher with my truck.
Finally, I was – had to get up on the sidewalk, right in front of the store, cross-ways to the front doors. Meanwhile, I was getting hit with, uh, uh, paper boxes, you know, metal paper boxes flying around. And the wind was so bad in a couple gusts from the twisters, it lifted my van, I think, off the ground, it felt like. And then, all of a sudden, uh, everything turned white. Uh, we had a white out. I guess when the wind gets so strong it makes ox-, it puts oxygen into the rain, or something. The radio station, they had it around them, and, uh, they couldn’t believe it.
Anyway, it did the white out, and then, uh, oh, hours later, the water started going down. It came all the way up to the sidewalk what I was parked on, uh, sideways to the front doors of the store, and, uh, the water came up to the edge of the sidewalk. I figured [if] it start coming up much higher than that, we’d really be in trouble. And I could see, uh, cars floating around in the parking lot with their horns going off and lights going off – on and off – going, “Oh boy, I know them people, and that’s the end of their car; you know, that’s the end of their vehicle,” you know? Pick up trucks tend to float good, but the cars didn’t.
Anyways, the water went down, and, and I went back – tried to get back here. I got into my house, and I couldn’t get back out until they brought a backhoe over. They backhoed the front door, the steel pipes from my, uh, carport – they backhoed those off where they were bent around my door so I could get out. And, uh, and there was like, uh, 3 or 4 inches of mud on everything – everything. [The] floor had 3 inches of mud on it, outside had three inches of mud, and it was all from the salt water, uh, from the reef and whatever out there, and uh, when it dried up, it dried up to dust. Yeah, unbelievable. You know, it just disappeared.
Well, ever since then, they came around and they red tagged my trailer. They said I couldn’t live here. And I said, “Okay, find me a place,” which they didn’t do. And, uh, I just, uh, cleaned the trailer out pretty good and went back in, and I laid down on a wet bed.
And a truck came around, and they were handing out beds – you know, mattresses. You know, that was nice – that was nice of them. So, that was the first step upwards. You know, get out of the water. And everything I owned was wet, my clothes, my… everything. Probably about two weeks after. Pretty much, yeah, and, uh, we were running off generators, get a little electricity for light at night, you know. I’ve got light and a fan- that was the greatest thing going. Because down here, it’s pretty hot. <Yes!>
From there, I got, you know, the air conditioner going. We got our electricity back – we lost three poles down to the street. Once they got going down there, couple, three weeks later, four weeks later they got some street poles fixed and hooked me back up. <So, four weeks after the truck, or four weeks after Irma?> After the storm – Four or five weeks. And they put new telephone poles up – new wires.
And, uh, and they started – they donated a few things. You know, the food was pretty good, all those kind of things. You know, they had free food; they had free clothes down at the flea market, um, and food. Uh, that was pretty nice. I don’t know how they got away with that. You know, somebody came around with pillows for free and blankets for free. <That’s nice.> Oh, yeah, that was nice. We were getting served hot meals three times, maybe, twice a day – trucks coming around <that’s good>
from the Red Cross, and, uh, I guess FEMA, I guess – somebody. Anyways, so we got food that way, until we got a refrigerator. <When’d you get the refrigerator?> Oh, probably, uh, three, four weeks later, at least four weeks later.