To start – my family and I are safe and our home sustained minimal damage. A special Thank You to all of the First Responders, newscasters and other professionals who have been working around the clock to not only keep us safe, but also provide us information and now assist with the cleanup. My sincere apologies to those who reached out before, during and after Hurricane Irma and received no response or a very delayed one. One of the ATT towers here in South Florida was knocked out, leading to little to no service in the area. We lost power as well, leaving us without WiFi, internet, or the ability to use Zello or other social media apps. Irma has passed and it is time to assess the damage. Clean up has now begun and the hope for power, cellular service and our every day conveniences is at a fever pitch.
In reflection of the storm, it occurred to me that too often we get caught up in our day to day lives and our personal or professional responsibilities. We forget the simple things in life, or we tend to take them for granted. Things like running water, electricity, or for us in South Florida, air conditioning. And then it happens – Something out of the ordinary – something that brings us back to center. It doesn’t always have to be a tragic event, but an event none the less. For us in South Florida, that event was Hurricane Irma.
It became evident early that Irma was not going to be your every day Hurricane. She was a category 5 monster stretching over 300 miles – literally covering the distance from Miami, Fl all the way to Jacksonville, Fl tearing across the Caribbean. Projections for the track of the storm varied, causing people to second guess their decisions to stay and weather out the storm or evacuate and head to higher ground.
As Hurricane Irma approached Miami, preparations were made. I am extremely grateful of the proactive leadership here in Miami from not only the civic leaders, but also from our University. FIU was on the forefront of the decision making process, keeping us alerted to next steps – university closures – as well as providing tools for those who decided to stay and batten down the hatches. The communication, when accessible, was fantastic. Dr. Rosenberg, our President, was not only active on campus – he had a significant presence via email and social media (FIUPres5 on Instagram / SnapChat).
Even further, our unit supervisor, Dr. Elizabeth Bejar (Vice President Academic Affairs), was active via text message creating a communication tree for not only our unit, but every unit under academic affairs. Take a quick second and think about the severity of her role during this time. You have one of the largest storms in recorded history headed your way, causing catastrophic damage with sustained winds maxing out at 185 miles an hour. You have a family, your home and your community to think about. It would be easy to be selfish this one time, focus on yourself – not on others. No one would hold it against you. But in the true spirit of why FIU is so great, Dr. Bejar took the time, effort and energy to make sure her FIU family was safe, prepared and ready. Not just before the storm when things were calm – but before, during and after. You cannot put a price tag on that type of dedication or service, but you can trust it is felt within the staff members who work under this type of leadership.
Although Hurricane Irma has passed, her impact still remains. The emphasis of rebuilding the communities that were damaged will be the focus over the next few months. I am positive I will never forget this storm, or the hours that passed when life reverted back to its simplistic form. No TV, no cell phones, no electricity. Reading books when you had daylight. Putting together a puzzle with the help of candle light. I will also never forget the attention and communication provided by the leadership at FIU. It is heartwarming to know that our administration doesn’t just talk about being invested in our people, their actions prove it.
For anyone affected by Hurricane Irma, our thoughts are with you. We will work to rebuild everything that has been damaged. I am extremely blessed that my family, my extended family and my work family all made it through this safely.