23 Oct IN THE EYE OF HURRICANE GRACE
In August, my friends and I went to Riviera Maya, Mexico. It was my first time going to a different country without my family. This girls’ trip had been in the making for several months. After countless friends flaked, the number of attendees went from 10 to 3. It didn’t matter though, because we were just as excited to go abroad and relax after a long summer of working 40 hours weeks and taking summer classes.
We knew it was supposed to rain a bit when we were there, but we didn’t want to let that stop us. We planned to do as much as possible, rain or shine.
What we didn’t know was that from the months of July and August, hurricane season was at its peak.
On the 5th day of our trip, the storm clouds had begun to roll in and the wind was getting stronger by the hour. I remember sitting on the beach on the lounge chairs reading my book and waiting for my friends to return from the pool. Every time a person got up, a worker from the resort swooped in and took their beach chair.
I was confused. I knew resorts didn’t close, and the weather did not look that bad for them to be packing up everything. I didn’t think to worry much because everyone was still outside enjoying themselves.
But then the workers began to take down the umbrellas, and take down the volleyball nets and cancel all outdoor activities for the rest of the evening.
At this point I moved my stuff over to the pool area where my friends were swimming. I had a gut feeling that I shouldn’t be too far from them. As soon as I got into the pool they told me that some guest told them that there has been a hurricane warning for the peninsula.
My first instinct was to worry. I couldn’t believe that the first time I’m out of the country without my mom, I was going to be stuck in a natural disaster.
I’m not sure if my friends sensed my panicked state, or if they were trying to calm themselves down, but they convinced me not to worry. They said it wasn’t even raining yet and the hurricane might pass over us quickly.
I believed them and swam in the pool some more. I even got a cocktail, if you could believe it.
And then the rain started.
It came down scarcely at first and it shocked us.
Then it came down in buckets.
We ran out of the pool and grabbed our stuff. Luckily, the resort was small and our room wasn’t too far away from where we were.
When we opened our door, we realized that someone had been in there. They left a note and snacks. The snacks consisted of cookies, bananas, and ham sandwiches, which was great, but one friend was Muslim, one was a vegetarian, and I was too anxious to eat. The note confirmed that there was a hurricane approaching and that all events and reservations were cancelled and that guests were to stay in their rooms unless they were getting dinner at 6pm.
My first instinct was to call my mom for comfort. I hated the idea that something could happen to me and I wouldn’t be near her. She has always been hesitant about letting me go to far places alone and that fear definitely transferred over to me. I had to suppress that thought though. I couldn’t let fear control my actions. I couldn’t freak my mom out over something that hadn’t happened yet.
Eventually, the lights, wifi and air conditioning went out.
We had to do everything in the dark, but luckily our room was still somewhat cool. One of my friends argued to open the balcony door, and the other said that it would get rid of what’s left of the cool air out.
I stayed silent. I can’t remember if I had an opinion about anything and wanted to voice it, or if I did and just couldn’t speak because of anxiety. I’m not sure.
My friends and I were in bed by 8pm.
We were in the eye of Hurricane Grace by 3am.
My body woke up before my mind did. It was almost like sleep paralysis. My eyes were opened but I couldn’t see because the lights were out. I could hear the rain and wind whipping against the balcony but I couldn’t move. I could feel the room getting hotter as what was left of the cold air fizzled out.
My friends shared the bed closest to the window. They got up at some point and opened the balcony door to move the furniture. One friend kept saying that the wind would knock the chair into the glass and it would break and she would lose a leg.
I thought about losing my leg. I thought about the balcony furniture being in the middle or our room with glass everywhere. I thought about our room flooding. I thought about our passports going missing and us being stranded. I thought about my friends and I being separated in a foreign country without our families. I thought about endless possibilities of how this night could go.
I was immobilized with fear. All I wanted to do was call my mom. But again, I held back. Telling her would make this real. Telling her would in some way seal my fate. I didn’t want to jinx it.
All I could think about was the name of the Hurricane. Grace. I almost wanted to laugh. She was anything but graceful. The person who named it definitely thought they were funny. I think this was when delirium sunk in.
My friends panicked some more but I didn’t say anything. To this day I’m not sure if they thought I was sleeping or not, but I remember feeling bad. Maybe I should’ve consoled them. Maybe that would’ve helped me feel better too.
The next morning the room was deathly hot. Condensation formed everywhere and the floors were slick and wet, but the rain had subsided considerably. Hurricane Grace had passed over us.
Understandably , the hotel wouldn’t send out housekeeping during the hurricane so there was only one clean towel left since we used the rest to protect us from any potential floods from the front door.
We spent most of the morning talking. On a normal day we would’ve been down by the water, but looking out on the balcony there was sand, leaves, and broken tree parts everywhere. The pool was filled with debris. Surprisingly, there were some people outside drinking cocktails.
We inferred that they were from Florida. Don’t ask me why.
We called the front desk and they said that there was wifi and power available in the main lobby so that was our first stop. The hallways were flooded with puddles that we had to jump over to avoid.
We were meant to fly back to Canada the next day, but we had no clue whether the hurricane caused planes to be delayed. I feel like at this moment I should’ve panicked, but at this point I recognized that I was safe and healthy and I knew I would get home eventually. Luckily, flights carried on as usual.
As soon as we reached the main lobby and connected to the wifi, I saw several missed calls and texts from my mom on my phone and on my friends phone.
Since the worst of the hurricane was over and nothing happened, I decided to still not tell her about the severity of the situation. I just told her that there was a bad storm and the electricity was out.
This experience was my first ever time in a natural disaster, and while the outcome was not good, everyone was safe and no one was hurt.
In different rooms there were floods and across town, homes and businesses were partially destroyed.
I was very lucky to not experience the hardships that the hurricane had caused many people all over Mexico.
I think this experience was something I had to go through alone. If I was with my family I would’ve had an outlet to be more scared and anxious. But being alone, I had to think for myself, and what the best way of handling this was without alarming my family.
Would I want to relive this experience again? Definitely not. I am grateful, however, that my friends and I are safe and that I was able to go back to my family in one piece.
HEADER IMAGE SOURCE: KEN TESORIERE