86,400 seconds of fear

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86,400 seconds of fear
Photo by Rachel Giordano

By Aleece Jarman

          While most people frantically run from disaster, my boyfriend races towards it.
          As the girlfriend of a firefighter, I spend every second while he is on duty constantly worried about what could happen.  Hurricane Michael only increased those feelings.
          The night of Tuesday, October 10th, I found it even harder than usual to say goodbye as he left for the fire station.  I was constantly checking my phone, analyzing radars, and hoping the hurricane would decrease in intensity.  Unfortunately, the winds only got stronger and hurricane Michael was officially classified as a category 4.
          The path of the storm was predicted to shift right as it made landfall, moving away from Pensacola.  However, weather is unpredictable and can follow a different course last minute. With these thoughts in the back of my mind, I laid in bed for hours, trying to ease myself to sleep.
          I had no such luck, and as I sat there wide awake in the middle of the night, I began to relive memories from hurricane Ivan.  I was only 8 years old when that storm hit the Florida panhandle, but I remember it like it was yesterday.
          As the eye of hurricane Ivan approached our home, we looked out of the window awaiting its calm nature.  That is when the roof of our barn flew up into the air, and panic began to set in. My family ran towards the barn to set the horses free, and although none of the animals were harmed, that memory still haunts me.
          Hurricane Ivan was a category 3, leaving devastating damage to the areas it hit.  Knowing how deadly that storm was, it made me sick to my stomach thinking about the potential of a category 4 hurricane.
          The morning of Wednesday, October 11th, I awaited the arrival of Hurricane Michael.  Pensacola was on the outskirts of the storm, but you never know how strongly your area will be affected.  I was afraid people would put themselves in harm’s way, causing the need for first responders.
          The sound of sirens flooded my room as I sat in the house that day.  I prayed my boyfriend’s fire station wouldn’t get called, and if they did, I prayed that every first responder would remain safe.
          I tried to talk to my boyfriend constantly that day, because every text he sent was a sigh of relief and reassurance that he would be okay.  Minutes felt like hours, and hours felt like days as I anxiously awaited 5 p.m.
          As it seemed like the time would never come, suddenly 3, 2, 1…the bedroom door opened, and in that moment, I knew I had never been happier to see someone in my entire life.
          At the end of the day, the hurricane didn’t have a huge effect on the Pensacola area, but that didn’t ease the fear for my boyfriend’s safety.  Freak accidents can always happen, especially during the panic of a natural disaster.
          My heart goes out to those that were severely affected by hurricane Michael, but I am also relieved that our beautiful city and the people that live here were not in the storm’s direct path.