I discovered Steven Symes, Writer and his wonderful blog during the last A to Z. Steven is a full-time writer. I don't know what you imagine when someone says that, but I picture someone glued to their computer, guzzling coffee (or maybe whiskey), while the rest of their life crumbles around them. They venture out (in my mind) for trips to the park for people watching, or some other venue loaded with strangers, and then back to the keyboard they go. And they write only what they want and lots of it. Turns out that being a full-time writer is not exactly like that... unless you're a bestseller 10 times over. Then it might be something like that. According to Steven full-time writing is like any other job. You write a lot. About what someone will pay you to write. And you can actually have a spouse and family and make it work - with effort. Who knew???
Cue the traveling music:
I Survived a Catastrophic Hurricane by Steven Symes
|My camera was damaged during the storm, but this is from right before.|
I survived a catastrophic hurricane and will never be the same for it.
If you want all of the nitty-gritty statistics and scientific information about Hurricane Mitch, you can read about it on the NCDC website here. I was living in the capital city of Honduras, called Tegucigalpa when one of the worst hurricanes to have ever struck the area made landfall. I've known people who've said, "I was in a Hurricane. We didn't have running water or electricity for a couple of days. It wasn't that bad." I wish that had been my experience, because in the thick of the storm for the first and hopefully last time in my life I had serious doubts that I would live to see the light of day again.
The storm was massive and just sat off the coast of Honduras for days, battering it like a boxer. I've never seen so much rain in my life, and I think few people really know what I mean. I grew up in New Mexico with its crazy flash floods, but this was different. People say sometimes the streets become like rivers, but the streets of Tegucigalpa eventually turned into white water rapids.
The death and destruction was nothing short of catastrophic, which was something my young mind had trouble processing. Early in the storm we were hiking up a mountainside (half the city is on mountainsides) when a house right next to us fell over and began sliding down the mountain. That was frightening to feel the ground give way right next to me. Later I stood on my rooftop and watched home after home in the area give way and slide down the mountainsides. Downtown became a huge lake, with water filling the buildings. I watched on television as the prison that was located by the river was abandoned by the guards as the building filled up with water. The army responded as inmates started to flee the building as well. The army was on the other side of the river and the bridge was washed out, so they couldn't detain the inmates. That's when the snipers set up and just started executing anyone who stuck his head out of the prison, right on live TV.
If only that was the end of the shocking violence, but it wasn't. The storm intensified and the capital started to completely melt down. All but one bridge over the river were washed out. Entire mountainsides began to give way as the soil became completely saturated. And I sat in my house, with very little food and water, watching the destruction creep closer and closer, wonder when my time to die was coming.
|Mountainsides are everywhere in Tegucigalpa.|
With roads disrupted, I was forced to walk across the city off the beaten paths. Once we were forced to cut through a barren area at the base of a mountain. It was called El Chile and was an entire neighborhood buried by one of the mudslides. I knew that I was walking over where hundreds of people had been buried alive in an instant. I've been to Gettysburg, and it felt just as somber.
Martial law was declared and anyone out after dark was shot on sight. Looting was rampant. More people died. I went two weeks without having a drop of water, brushing my teeth with Sprite and Coca-Cola, as if that would help.
Two things I learned from that experiences and the images I can never scrub from my memory: any help you can give to people in such a situation is wonderful, especially if you help the professional organizations like the Red Cross (which really knows what it's doing - I've experienced it firsthand) and also that you need to be prepared in case something like that were to happen where you live. I wasn't ready for a huge hurricane and went days and days with hardly any food. Taking a little bit of time to prepare yourself for the worst, without living under a cloud of fear, goes a long way.
When people live through horror and live to tell about it, I want to read it (not that his blog is one catastrophe after another). However, it is full of stories. Thank you, Steven, for sharing not only this story, but all of them.