Saturday, November 18, 2017

Four Days in a Florida Hurricane Shelter

Hurricane Irma struck South Florida early morning on September 10th. I had just returned from a trip to Connecticut and began to focus on the storm three days prior. The lurid media projections of a category five storm charging up the center of the state, touching both coasts, unsettled me. After being unable to book a hotel or flight, and hearing of a traffic jam all the way to Orlando, I opted for a shelter.

Inside the shelter, people were clustered in hallways. The man seated next to me was a retired Harvard professor. In a crescent around us was a twenty-seven member extended family of people of Michoacán heritage.

On the first day the professor and I had a conversation about academia. He told me that he had witnessed a change in the essence of a Harvard education during his tenure. He went on to say that when he began teaching, Harvard sought to produce great Americans who influenced the world through their graciousness. He expressed that this gradually changed over the course of his career where students primarily became concerned with getting good jobs and making a lot of money.

Over the next three days I became aware of how well-mannered and affable the large family around us was during this difficult period. They socialized their children, engaged in polite conversation with everyone, offered fruit, sandwiches, and cell phones to all. They even helped the professor rise to his feet several times.

Except for those at the ends of the hall, who had complained constantly during the ordeal, the Man of Letters thanked everyone for a tolerable experience before he left.