While their peers were hunkering down and losing electricity, Basic English students from the Clearwater campus were busy doing something else: writing journal entries about their Hurricane Irma experiences.
Students Panta Xiong, Denia Wise, Einette Feliciano, Enitza Rivera and Erica Vandommelen wrote about their actions and emotions before, during, and after the big storm. Some students evacuated while others sheltered in place, but all had remarkable encounters.
“I never thought I would be as frightened as I was of the storm until a police officer used a loud speaker to announce that the area I was in was under evacuation,” wrote Feliciano. “I was at a friend’s house when all this occurred. … During the aftermath of this storm I was actually very disappointed. I expected it to be something similar to the hurricane Texas had, Harvey. I honestly felt that people exaggerated. But it’s always better to be safe than sorry.”
In contrast, Xiong’s tale of evacuation took her all the way to a neighboring state, where life was very different, “We left the house by 6:00 am with a full tank of gas and headed to see family in Clayton, Alabama. It took us 9 hours to get there. During our stay, it was very delightful and welcoming. We had beautiful weather and enjoyed it by grilling outside with the family we hadn’t seen in years. We also kept up with the news regarding Hurricane Irma to see exactly what the outcome would be.”
For some, the most memorable part of Hurricane Irma was its imagery, “It is 7 p.m. Sunday, and the lights have gone out and officially the power is gone,” wrote Wise. “I ignite some candles to help give some light to the dark and cold house. The kids and I laid in the bed and listened to the branches break off the trees and the wind tell a story with its sounds.”
Vandommelen, like many students, was concerned for the safety of her loved ones during the hurricane, “Once the storm got bad the wind hitting my window woke me up. The wind was throwing branches, small rocks, and other small items around outside. At this point, I was a little frightened because I thought something would break my window out. So I moved my bed away from the window in my room and went to check on my children,” she wrote.
Rivera’s family used board games at a nearby shelter to help them cope with storm-related stress, “In the middle of Pictionary, you can hear the wind roaring, even through the building’s thick walls and windows. My curiosity leads me to open the back door. I can feel the wind moving so fast, my hair was pushed out of my face. Branches have already broken off and blocked the entrance to the back door. The smell of fresh rain brings back memories of cold winters in New York. The wind has become so strong is pushes me back, forcing the door to slam in front of me.”
Students read their journals aloud, comparing stories and experiences with one another, and then they peer-edited one another’s writing before submitting final drafts electronically. The journals will be collected and anthologized by the course instructor, John Davis Jr., to commemorate this major milestone in the students’ lives.