When I packed, I had no idea where we were going.
How did we get here?
Well, that’s what it used to mean.
That’s a whole lot of red below. Coming RIGHT at us.
(I googled the “benefit of taping up windows in a hurricane” and learned that putting comforters or rugs over windows to protect from debris was a potentially good idea.)
All of our outside furniture was stored, or stuffed into our house.
We took down our GIGANTIC satellite dish ourselves. We were told it would blow away like a frisbee. (Totally true. We saw a lot post-storm.)
And Craig’s SUP board made a home in the hallway.
I called my little sister in Missouri and told her, “This is going to be big. I may not be able to call you afterwards depending on cell service and electricity, but I will call you as soon as I can.”
I even called a local all-inclusive at the recommendation of a friend and long-time Cabo resident. She encouraged me to make a reservation, because in the event of a storm, at least the hotel will have a generator and electricity and a/c, etc. So, I booked a room for Tuesday through Friday. I talked to the front desk man, he was so nice and he assured me that we’d have a room.
(Ha. That never happened.)
|ATV in the hallway, next to the SUP board, and also the satellite dish. Nothing like a hurricane when you’re in the middle of moving.|
|An average day of|
Wind, crazy wind. Rain.
It was getting dark out, because storms always happen at night, right?
The girls were bathed, ready for bed and watching Despicable Me. Right at the end of the movie – the ballet scene, the sliding doors started to whistle… it scared me and I said, “Ok, time for bed.” Little did I know that the “whistling doors” weren’t even the half of it.
We put the girls to bed, Craig and I together. Lila climbed into her top bunk and Vivienne into the bottom. We had decided earlier in the day that we would hunker down in the girls room; them in their beds, us on the floor. We said our prayers. I sang them a song, they both fell asleep.
Meanwhile, the rain and wind were amping up…
…minutes after they were asleep, the power that had been flickering on and off, shut off for the night. We didn’t know what else to do, so we collected our dogs, Millie and Fergie, and we went into the girls room… and our waiting started.
Remember, it’s Cabo in September and it’s hot.
This means no air conditioning. In a boarded up house. With no windows open.
…At this point, we still had cell service intermittently. So, we conservatively continued tracking the storm; being mindful of our cell phone batteries. The bright red eye of the storm scared us. But checking the satellite only lasted for a short while longer, because then cell service said “adios.”
So there we were.
Sitting on the carpet in the girls room.
Listening to the rain POUND our house.
Listening to the WIND pummel something, everything?
Optimistic that we could totally handle this. Right?
Ferg was pacing. She was so nervous. (That sweet dog.)
Millie snuggled close to us.
Remember, our windows were boarded up – we couldn’t really see ANYTHING outside. We didn’t really know what was going on. We could just hear the plywood banging up against the house.
We didn’t board up our courtyard windows, because we thought they were protected enough. So if we opened the girls’ bedroom door, we could sort of see outside into the courtyard; but that didn’t allow us to see what was happening outside of our home.
So there we sat. By flashlight and flameless candle light.
Necks already aching.
“I wonder if this is it. It’s got to calm down, right?”
(I wondered this all night.)
At some point, the plywood shutter on the girls’ window started to loosen. Scared that a piece of debris would break the window and fly in and hit one of us, we made the decision to move into our bedroom. We literally RAN through the hallway – our hallway of nearly floor to ceiling windows – each one of us holding one of our ladies in our arms.
The sound. The wind was like nothing I have ever heard before.
I will never, ever forget it.
The rain. It didn’t rain straight down – it was sideways. It was POUNDING the house and the windows.
We made the girls a small bed on our floor, away from our window… and there… we waited.
Every few minutes we’d hear a crash or a bang or a loud, thundering, jarring sound and Craig would open our bedroom door and go check; attempting to see in the blackness what happened. During that time, I wouldn’t breathe. I was terrified that he was going to get hit in the head by broken glass or debris that would break through our window.
I’d breathe after I’d see his flashlight come toward the bedroom door, where I was anxiously waiting.
He’d come back into the room and the two of us together would pull shut our wooden bedroom door and stuff socks in it so that it wouldn’t crash against the door jamb, over and over again.
Then we’d sit.
Wondering when our windows were going to blow.
During this time, the rain came in throughout the house.
Since it wasn’t coming down in any sort of straight, reasonable-like manner, it blew through the window frames and doors. The girls rug quickly became soaked. Their built-in drawers under the window in their room were flooded with water – soaking their t-shirts, shorts, pajamas and underpants. (This proved to be an issue in the coming days.)
Our skylight blew out in the guest bathroom – water, leaves, debris, everywhere. We shut the door and let it go. What can you do?
We just tried to maintain as much as we possibly could.
“This has got to calm down, right? It’s almost over, right?”
But it wasn’t.
We sat upright. We couldn’t rest.
There’s no resting when you’re terrified.
My sweet husband was stationed in the chair in our room, with a flashlight in his hands, constantly shining a light on the window in our bedroom that was covered with plywood – making sure that the plywood was resisting the 130 mph winds.
We spoke gently to one another.
No fear; lest the other would let on.
All optimism. “We can do this.”
We asked one another, “Where do we go next? If this window goes, where do we go?”
I’ll be honest, we didn’t have an answer. EVERY ROOM in our house has glass. No extra closets. No safe spaces.
I prayed the whole time.
“Dear Lord, thank you. Thank you for protecting. Please continue to protect us.”
I looked at my babies, with tears in my eyes and thought, “Is this… is this going to be how we…”
Is this it?
I thought of my baby sister, “Is she going to lose ALL of us? Her whole family? Are we going to go this way? Is she going to lose my Mom in September 2013 and us in September 2014?”
I thought more than once, especially after the 1-year-anniversary of my Mom’s passing just 5 days before on September 9th, “I hate September. I really hate September.”
“This has to calm down, right?”
You guys, IT DIDN’T CALM DOWN.
Hours and hours of Odile.
With each increase in wind or rain, our keenly tuned senses of hearing would signal to our bodies the stress of the situation. You couldn’t relax. You couldn’t fall asleep. You couldn’t stop praying.
“Just let there be daylight. This will be over in the daylight.”
We had intermittent cell access throughout the storm, but it was frustrating because one text would try to send for 15 minutes, then it would time out. So if the text would send, it wasn’t real-time and it was confusing. I remember texting my brother who was in the States, “Is it over yet? Is it almost gone?”
But I don’t believe that text went through.
So we waited.
We stopped the infiltrating water with every single towel in our house.
Beach towels. Bath towels. Hand towels. Washcloths. Rags.
But I’ll be honest, who cares about the water. I hope we make it.
Craig continued to be my silent hero.
Handling each small issue… bravely.
I, on the other hand, was terrified but hiding it.
It’s funny how dramatic and tragic events in your life all work together to give you something to draw from in times of fear.
With the passing of my Mom, I’ve learned that time is constant.
Daylight will come. Just hang on.
“Thank you Lord, for protecting us. Please continue. Please. Bring the sunshine. Bring the morning.”
“It’s got to be finishing up now, right???”
No. It kept.on.going.
Before Hurricane Odile I had been under the impression (wrongly) that the eye of the storm is serenely calm; friends, this is not my experience.
No part of that hurricane was calm.
And the pressure.
The pressure that affected our bodies throughout this storm was unbelievable. I felt nauseous; as did Craig and my sister, who was hunkered down at her home with her two children and five dogs and six cats. The pressure was… so, so strange.
During one of Craig’s many, many trips out of the bedroom to check the house, he told me that the sliding doors were experiencing so much wind that they were flexing inward and outward about one foot either way.
Craig’s not an exaggerator.
I cannot believe they didn’t just burst from the pressure.
Had they broken, we learned from others, that other windows in the house would have just followed suit. Pressure. (I should have paid more attention in science class.)
As it always does, morning came.
But there was no sunshine.
I must have drifted to sleep toward the end of the storm and I woke up overhearing Craig talking to himself.
He was looking out of the small window in our shower and I heard him say, “It’s gone. Everything’s gone.”
I raced to a standing position; careful not to disturb the sleeping angels on the floor next to me.
[Please note that the entire time I’ve written this post, my heart has been racing. RACING. It’s been 20 days since the hurricane and I feel as if it happened yesterday. I purposefully haven’t written about it; or talked about it. It’s just too, too much.]
I looked out the window.
And my breath was taken from me.
He was right.
There’s Cabo before, and now Cabo after.
|This is my neighborhood. The large tree on the left I used to call the Tree of Life. It was majestic. The wind and rain removed paint.|
|Palm trees down. Everywhere.|
|Lower left, that’s our bedroom window. Had Craig not added a second piece of wood securing it to the house, well… I don’t think we would have had a safe space. Or a window.|
|This is the parking area that used to have covered pergolas over parking spaces. (Normal down here.) There were coconuts EVERYWHERE.|
Did people die?
Is everyone I know and love ok?
The phones aren’t working.
There’s no electricity.
What do we do?
I tried for so long to call my baby sister and around 10:00 a.m. I got ahold of her in Missouri. “We’re ok. No windows were broken. The girls are fine. They slept through the storm. I don’t know if Trisha, my other sister, in Cabo, is ok. I don’t know if my nieces and nephew are ok at my brother’s house in Cabo. Call Craig’s Mom. Call my brother, Bryan. Post something on my facebook page and tell everyone we’re ok. This is my password. I don’t know when I can call you again. We have no electricity and I don’t want to waste my phone. I love you. We are fine.”
There was a lot of exhaling.
There was a lot of sighing.
But there was a lot of explaining to our ladies, too.
“We had a storm. And sometimes storms are really windy and rainy and the trees and some of the buildings can’t quite stand up strong enough, so they break.”
My sister and nephew arrived at our house later that first morning.
I cried when I saw them.
I hugged my sister.
Their house survived. Her garage door did not. Her animals were ok. She lost a few windows. She has loved and lived in Cabo for nearly 20 years – it’s her home.
A sad day.
Yesterday it was gorgeous. Yesterday was normal. YESTERDAY everything was beautiful.
Today there is nothing.
We got into Craig’s old Jeep Commander to go to the new house — just up the road from my sister’s house. Had our two cars that we parked in the garage made it? How many windows did we lose?
Before we opened the door of our courtyard at our old house out into what remained, we prepared the girls.
And I’ll tell you, when there’s no electricity. No running water. And the shock of what just happened is setting in, all.you.hear.is.silence.
|This is what they wear for hurricane surveying. I adore them.|
|Because you might need your measuring tape.|
As we drove, I took pictures. Lila asked me to stop because, “This is not something that I want to remember. It is so sad. For our planet. For the people.”
And Vivi kept repeating, “This is a horrible day. A horrible day. A horrible day.”
This is some of what we saw as we drove.
|A street light in the middle of the street. Trees at 45 degree angles. Even the HUGE street sign thing has moved.|
|There used to be a sales trailer there. Office furniture. Computers. Flat screen TV. Gone.|
|Mangled street posts. Down (yet not live) power lines. Debris everywhere. We saw sheet metal wrapped around trees. The trees are weeping.|
|This is the Honda dealer.|
|The road from my old house to the new house. (To my sister’s neighborhood.)|
|This was life-changing for the girls to see. Old McDonald’s was demolished.|
|Leaning trees and leaning light poles.|
|Quiet. Empty. Desolate. SO strange.|
|The cobblestone road just past my sister’s house and up to our new house was impassable because of a downed electric line. Look at that telephone pole. A brick wall crumbling to the right.|
|The poor trees. The broken fences. The orange clay all over the roads is from people’s clay roofs.|
When we got to our new house, which we just had painted the week before, we noticed that the white exterior was now stained orange from the clay shingles.
We also found that the two front doors had blown open during the storm – forcing open the DEAD BOLT.
The house was covered in water.
The house has a sizable front window – I was so scared that it broke, but it didn’t.
|The broken tiles on our roof.|
|More broken tiles. That’s our neighbor’s palapa (large umbrella thing) in our yard.|
|The flooded family room.|
|The just-painted hallway, covered in grass and dirt and stuff.|
|That’s a clay roof piece. Inside.|
|The window made it!|
|A broken door to an outdoor room… We wanted to replace it anyway…|
|We literally just finished having the house painted. The girls and I just swept and cleaned the entire upstairs.|
|Parts of the door on the stairs.|
|A little blurry, but my helpers sweeping inches of water from the family room, to the kitchen, to the pantry, out the door.|
|Craig had just finished painting a light green paint on the lower 2/3 of the wall in the girls’ room. See it? We lost their sliding doors and put a cupboard thing that came with the house in front of the door after the storm.|
In all honesty, after the storm I was taken aback, but I knew and I know, that things can be cleaned up. I was just too busy thanking God for sparing us; for sparing my family. I felt so ridiculously blessed.
In the midst of it all, I kept looking at Craig and saying, “BUT WE ARE OK!”
As time went on, it got hotter.
So, so hot. The sun came out.
Everything, I mean EVERYTHING was wet.
|Classy, no? It’s my multi-string drying rack in my courtyard. It was so, so necessary. All of the girls’ clothes in their drawers, except of course their winter clothes, got wet. And we had so many towels to dry.|
No electricity, kids. That means no fridge. No freezer. No washer. No dryer. No cell phone charging.
At night, utter and complete darkness.
We kept our old house boarded up a.) to keep it safe and b.) because we were expecting and wary of another storm.
It was so, so hot.
All of the time hot.
Sweat pouring down your head as you attempted to sleep. All of us. In the same, still, no-air-moving room. No fan. No light. No water. No electricity.
So you got up during the day, and you swept. And cleaned. And never stopped moving.
And you made it seemed like life was normal for your kids.
They can play with whatever they want; wherever they want. Because most of their toys are packed up and whatever they can find is fair game.
95? Maybe more? No relief. Still air. Day and night. The humidity.
Vivi helped by picking up coconuts that nearly weighed as much as she does.
Lila didn’t want to get her hands dirty.
|Vivi had horrific heat rash. All over. We covered her with corn starch and let her wear as few clothes as possible.|
|Vivi’s heat rash, all over her face… this was before it was really bad.|
There was no time to cry, honestly.
I didn’t want to crack.
The hurricane happened on Sunday/Monday and by Wednesday – I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know when it would get better, to be honest. So you just kept moving.
Cell phone reception was spotty. You couldn’t use your phone to check flights; or to get accurate information. I could get emails, but only read the subject line; the message wouldn’t load. I could leave a facebook message, but not read the comments. If I walked to a particular part of the parking area and stood in the sun, I could maybe get 2 little circles of coverage on my iphones.
So, we cleaned.
With our neighbors.
With our friends.
The emotion of it all was too much.
When your friend walks through your door; someone you haven’t been able to call – you can’t help but cry. (Love you, Debbie.)
When you friend drives up in her car and you see that SHE IS OK, you cry. (Love you, Dulce.)
|This is our backyard after Craig started to clean it.|
|Believe it or not, our playhouse was salvageable. We lost our fence, but Craig propped it back up.|
|I strongly believe those rugs saved our doors. Look at Craig’s grill – a door was ripped off. So was the left side wing-thing.|
|Look at my once-beautiful mango tree that shaded my home and concealed everything beyond that fence.|
|Goodbye ceiling fan blades and wooden ceiling tiles. And glass in the light. And leaves on the Mango tree.|
|Our front yard, cleaned up.|
|In the light of day.|
|This tree was so cute. It always reminded me of a McDonald’s Fry Guy. Remember those things?|
|Coconut water was plenty.|
|Craig was our tireless hero and protector. We had to encourage him.|
On Wednesday night – our neighbors went to La Paz, our state capital, and let us and a neighbor share their GIGANTIC generator.
We had one lamp and one fan on from about 9 p.m.. until midnight.
Throughout this whole experience, evacuations were happening every hour. We could hear them. We also could see the emergency helicopters that were landing at the golf course behind our house. The Mexican military was bringing their planes and evacuating people to mainland Mexico – wherever they took you is where you ended up — or so we heard. We also heard that the lines were HOURS long in the hot sun at what was our airport. We also heard that only women and children were being allowed to leave…
…this terrified me. I couldn’t leave without Craig. I just emotionally couldn’t.
We finally decided to evacuate and planned to leave Friday morning for the airport; we had heard that American carriers were stepping up and now evacuating American citizens and tourists – men included.
We made the agonizing and heartbreaking decision to drop our dogs with a family friend; as we were afraid they wouldn’t let us on the plane with two dogs. We knew that we need to get the girls out of there and so we had to make the dreaded “dogs or kids” decision. Lila and Vivienne won. We normally would have asked our nanny stay at our house and watch them; but we couldn’t get ahold of her. No phones.
We all cried as we drove away from the dogs.
|Mille Lou – 3 years old. Mutt. Rescue.|
|The Ferg. 6 years old. Havanese. So hot. So, so hot.|
When we got home from dropping off the dogs, we packed: our important documents. Our life. In a tiny, carry-on suitcase.
It’s incredible how easy it is to leave at home your great jeans and purses when you haven’t showered, wore makeup or slept in days. Amenities are inconsequential when you’re worried about food spoiling and feeding your kids and keeping them healthy.
That last day we were there, Thursday – I was stung by a wasp and Lila was stung by a bee. It was insane, the wasps and bees were EVERYWHERE. Craig guessed it’s because there were no flowers left; no pollen. They were hungry. And nasty.
The consequences of a hurricane are beyond comprehension. Especially when you live on what is nearly an island.
Medical services are limited.
Access to drugs: limited.
EVERYTHING is limited.
|My wasp bite was QUICKLY tamed with my lavender essential oil. That is a wonder oil.|
So we arrived at what was once our airport at 5:30 a.m. on Friday, September 19th.
There was a ridiculously long line, in utter blackness. We weren’t even lining up at the airport, but at a half-standing hotel (was it a Best Western?) that was serving as a makeshift organization center. We walked over shrapnel and held hands and got in line. There were probably 400 people in front of us. After a few minutes, I noticed that there were no Americans in the line. I asked Craig to check, and it appeared we were in the wrong line.
We were moved to a shorter line, as it was the fifth day after the hurricane and the thousands of tourists had already been evacuated.
We were told that we had no choice where we were going.
We were to get on the plane and go.
They didn’t even ask us our names.
We were told we were going to Dallas – our best case scenario.
Thank you, God.
By 7:15 a.m., the U.S. embassy workers has ushered us into a line and had given us snacks.
They were angels.
As the sun began to rise, I could see what was left of our airport — just renovated a year or so ago.
|The tents put up by the U.S. embassy.|
|Our old terminal.|
|The sunrise was stunning. Ah, Cabo.|
|The line of evacuees.|
These are not my photos below, I found them on google. But this is our airport. More pictures here.
I teared up when I saw the evacuation plane.
We watched as the crew was removing cases and cases of water and gatorade and food — all for relief efforts.
As I sat on the plane, dirty, sweaty, sunburned, emotional and stunned, I couldn’t help but feel so blessed and so thankful…
…but I felt no relief.
Cabo is our home.
We were leaving our home.
We were turning our backs on our family and our friends.
And as I write this today, I struggle with it.
I think that’s one of the reasons why it has taken me so long to write this post…
The only thing that makes me feel better is that we took our girls out because it was the best thing for them and that.was.the.right.thing.to.do.
Cabo post-hurricane is no place for a 3 and 5-year-old.
End of story.
American Airlines was amazing. The flight crew were volunteers. And they were kind. And lovely. (And I NEVER have nice things to say about American Airlines.)
American fed us for free.
They were so, so, so kind.
Sandwiches, snacks, as many beverages as you wanted, blankets on ALL seats (not just first class) – they were lovely.
Everyone clapped when the pilot said, “Welcome aboard. Everyone? I’m going to get you home.” I think people cried, too.
I just thought, “I’m leaving my home…”
The people on the plane were going to go back to their hot water and their lives; meanwhile we were leaving our lives and our family and our friends and our dogs and our homes and our cars and our lives in Cabo.
And my girls slept as I typed.
And I breathed.
My brother, Bryan, picked us up at the Dallas airport and when I saw him, I thought I was going to lose it. I asked him not to hug me.
I looked horrible. I felt horrible. My heart was overflowing.
I knew that just his hug would make me collapse. Crumble.
I love him.
Later, my best friend reminded me that my verse, oh, my verse, that has comforted me with the loss of my Mom, also applied to our latest experience.
|made by maehandmade on etsy.|
We did find refuge in His wings.
And only by the grace of God did we walk away nearly unscathed by that hurricane.
So many people, so many people were beyond adversely affected. Their lives were changed FOREVER. I have friends who lost all of their windows in their homes. In their cars. People lost everything.
Our neighbor near our new house has a 3-story house and lost every.single.window.in.it.
I have a friend whose husband was out of town and she was hiding in a closet with her daughter and baby.
I drove past a woman’s business, as she walked up to it, and saw the devastation. She was sobbing.
Lives irrevocably changed.
The clean up and rebuilding efforts are unbelievably laudable. Mexico has never seen such an electrical catastrophe and our electric company, CFE, has been working around-the-clock in smolderingly hot weather to establish electricity. Workers from the mainland have been working constantly. What they’ve restored isn’t normal electricity, it’s temporary. The grid, well, it needs to be rebuilt. Electricity will come and go for a few months.
Schools were affected.
Grocery stores were smashed.
Municipal offices were heavily impacted.
People lost their homes.
Several lost their lives.
In the days that followed, no one had money. There wasn’t a lot of gas. ATMs didn’t function. Banks were closed; some were destroyed. No ice. No windows. No electricity.
The cleanup efforts have been astounding; dare I say that the United States and the bungled at best FEMA organization would have never been able to pull together resources and pour money and manpower into rebuilding Cabo like the Mexican government has. In such a SHORT amount of time.
I have every confidence that Cabo will come back bigger and better. What has drawn us to the Baja Peninsula remains: the people, the weather, the beaches, the food… we’re just merely getting a little facelift.
The day after the storm Craig and I were sitting outside at the girls’ mini picnic table. I said to him, “Craig. I have never, in all my life, been so afraid.”
He had tears in his eyes and he said, “Me either.”
It was terrifying.
And we, along with so many of our dear, dear friends and neighbors, survived it.
When we got off the plane in Dallas I remarked to Craig that I felt no relief. My heart was still in Cabo.
I will feel that way until we return and resume our lives.
Since then, since we were in Dallas with my brother and his family and then in Ohio, it’s rained a couple of times. We had a heavy rainstorm in the middle of the night and instead of soothing me, I woke up, heart racing and couldn’t settle myself.
It scared me.
And maybe scarred me a little.
My sister, Trisha.
My dear, dear friends Debbie and Dulce.
My sweet nanny, Nelly, who is staying at my home and watching my dogs.
So many others have been my lifeline. They have been strong. They have pressed on. They have inspired me and I cannot wait to return and HOLD them close to me for what will probably be too long, and I will HUG them with all of my love and all of my might. I left, but they’ve remained. Working. Day in, day out.
I can’t imagine.
I didn’t want to write this post because my experience is nothing compared to what others have been going through.
The people who stayed, through the throngs of mosquitos, the cleaning, the HEAT, the everything… I give you my utmost respect and love.
I can’t wait to hug you.
And finally, that husband of mine.
He was incredible.
He was our protector.
He worked tirelessly.
He was strong.
Stronger than I had ever seen; in the nearly 20 years that we’ve been together.
I used to think that I was the dominant one in our relationship; I mean – have you met me?
But now I’ve realized that he allows me to feel that way… because it’s what I need. But in truth, there he is, and there he will remain, waiting in the wings, watching, protecting, safeguarding… making sure that Lila, Vivienne and I are ok.
If I could, I’m marry him again tomorrow.
Sweet man, dear Craig, I love you.
So, go to Cabo.
Vacation with us.
Enjoy our sun and our beaches and our incredible people.
Be amazed by how we’ve bounced back.
By your tickets now for December or January.
Life goes on, doesn’t it?
Take a look at this sweet baby bat that showed up on our bent-over plants in our courtyard the day after the storm.
We didn’t move him – because I mean, really. If you survived a hurricane when you’re as big as a teddy bear hamster, you can hang where you want.
I’m blessed. I thank God.
Thank you for reading.
Watch this video, made by my friend Sam, of Origin Film International.
#CABOSTRONG – A Short Film About Hope from Sam Perches on Vimeo.
PLACES TO GIVE:
Waves for Water
Baja Brewing Workers Aid
The Sarahuaro Foundation
Victims of Hurricane Odile – Team of people led by well-known fitness trainer, Modu, delivering food to local families in need
Los Cabos Humane Society
International Community Foundation
The Questro Foundation
Thirst No More
HASHTAGS TO FOLLOW:
RESOURCES TO FOLLOW:
Cabo Strong (Facebook group)
United for Baja (Facebook group)
Cabo San Lucas Blog
Cabo Hurricane Fund (Facebook group)
National Hurricane Center