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Danger looms in this idyllic, Floridian community and I, the stranger, am alert to the seamless transitions. The carbon texture of the hardening skies, the desertion of once bustling streets, the tentative schedules that allow room for imminent disaster; each omen deals a blow to my courage. I perceive the changes with the awe struck terror of a visitor who has never witnessed the raging forces of nature at work. I perceive a message in the howling winds and strident bird-calls: Hurricane Irma is coming for me.
In a bid to overcome my mounting fears, I decided to volunteer as a Red Cross Hurricane Disaster Relief Agent. I spent the night before Irma’s arrival in a basement room learning about shelter management and emergency procedures. I resumed my duties at the Rickard’s High School Shelter the following day as the winds rattled windows and shrieked with vehement desire to invade the refuge. Although worried about my safety, I gained strength in the midst of children and families who drew assurance from my own composure. This marked a milestone in my perception of service. I had always considered selflessness as evidence of bravery but had hardly considered the significance of acting in the face of one’s fears.
When I think about Irma, I recall not the nervous anticipation of its effects but the camaraderie in a warm school gymnasium. Helping a wide-eyed child named Mary color a picture whilst military volunteers heaved toddlers onto their shoulders, turning anxious shrieks into exclamations of joy. Listening to the stories of stranded travelers and gaining appreciation for a spectrum of human experiences thereby. Thus, I realized the synonymy of courage, compassion and service; a principle that will enable me to weather many more storms to come.
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