I sat there in disbelief. All eyes were on the television. Each person waited on the one word we feared the most… EVACUATION. I couldn’t believe it and neither could the sweet girl who had carefully placed chemicals on my hair only minutes before. The entire salon was silent for a moment and then there was a deafening buzz of activity. Hairdryers and curling irons were being shoved into drawers and a line started to form at the cash register. I just sat there…that’s all I could do. I had foil in my hair for goodness sake. I couldn’t go out in public like that. Plus, what about the beautiful strawberry blonde low lights and sun-kissed highlights that I had waited weeks for? My hairdresser began pacing back and forth. Her little girl was at day care. This meant she was safe, but she was also an hour away. Evacuations were still voluntary at the time…but no one really wanted to stay in Louisiana. Katrina hit our state hard only weeks before and panic surrounded even the slightest hint of a Hurricane.
I could hear the stress in her voice as she called to check on her little girl. I felt really bad; I knew she was beginning to worry. So, I did what any nice person would do…I left without paying. Okay, okay just kidding. I told her to rinse my hair and go get her precious little one. She quickly washed out my beautiful highlights and handed me a towel to wrap around my soaking wet hair. Then she was out the door.
I could feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins as I drove home. This was going to be my first evacuation. It was both scary and somewhat exhilarating. I didn’t know where we were going, but I knew we needed to get on the road as soon as possible. I threw everything of value into a suit case and breathed a sigh of relief when I heard my cell phone ring. It was Barry. I was thankful to finally be in contact with him and I was excited to find out where we would be headed for our mandatory vacation…um…I mean evacuation. In a matter of seconds all of my hopes were dashed. Barry wasn’t leaving. He was part of the pastoral team staying behind to man the church campus. The church was going to open its doors for anyone in need of shelter. As happy as I was that we were providing this much-needed avenue of rescue…I didn’t want to leave without my husband. All I could envision in my mind were the sappy movie scenes were the two lovers kiss and say goodbye for the final time. Each one knowing they may never see the other again.
Barry loaded my suitcases into the van. I was so mad at him, but I didn’t want to leave on a bad note. What if something happened to him? I clung to him as he wrapped his arms tight around my waist. I breathed in deep, he smelled like a sweaty man…but I didn’t care. He was my sweaty man. We prayed for each other and then I was off. I along with some girlfriends headed to my parents house in Texas. What would normally only take a few hours turned into a 13 hour drive across the state. Traffic was horrible and gas stations were lined with cars fighting to fill their tanks. This was my first evacuation and I was amazed at the amount of people on the roads. Everyone and their dog was leaving…except for my dear sweet, heroic husband.
By mid-morning the following day hurricane Rita made her presence known on the shores of Louisiana. Towns and homes were devastated by the strength of the enormous storm. But, the city of Lafayette remained safe and virtually untouched by the powerful winds and rain. As my friends and I made our way back to Louisiana, I couldn’t help but think about the possibility of what could have happened. The storm could have turned, Barry could have been hurt, our home could have been destroyed…the list goes on and on. My reunion with my wonderful husband was bitter-sweet. I was so happy to see him, but his absence during that scary time left me feeling vulnerable and alone. Despite the incredible sacrifice he was willing to make for the people of the community; at that moment I wanted him to be my hero. And I had a hard time settling for anything less. I battled anger and feeling as though I had taken a back seat to the needs of the church.
To be honest, I don’t think my feelings were wrong. They were valid and real and led to some pretty important discussions between Barry and myself. We had to decide for ourselves when the church would take precedence and when family should. I needed to feel involved in future decisions and talking about our priorities made me feel much better.
What about you? Have any of you ever felt this way? How did you handle the situation?