The typhoon hit about 4am. I remember waking up to our trailer shaking in a rhythmic pattern. I could hear the wind and a constant roaring sound. On Kwajalein, the principle-housing unit was a one and a half wide trailer wrapped in a reflective tin and anchored with concrete pins into the island. It had three bedrooms (2 very small with bunkbeds), 1 bath, and an air-conditioning unit on the roof. Ours was in a prime spot, looking out on the lagoon and witnessing every incredible sunset. Anyway, I crawled onto the top bunk and looked out a very small window. Even though it was very dark, I could make out white foam from the ocean. It was battering on my window.
I hopped down and hurried into the living room where a larger window looked out at the lagoon. Even though it was dark, it was clear what was happening. The waves, whipped by winds and enlarged by a very high tide and storm surge, were breaking into and onto our trailer. The over spray was slamming into the trailer behind ours. I woke my parents up. There was water coming through the living room window and the power was out. We unplugged stuff along the west wall of the trailer, laid down towels, and waited for sunlight.
By morning the typhoon had passed. Between our trailer and the lagoon was a single lane access road and a rock breakwater. The breakwater and the road was gone. There was 4 feet between the ocean and us. Some trailers along the road lost one or two pillars to the erosion and needed evacuation. There was no loss of life on our island, but trailer patios were torn and twisted and chairs and bikes scattered around. Other islands, with natives and less infrastructure were not so fortunate. We missed the center of the storm and the worst damage. The landscape and shape of the island had changed a bit. The storm surge connected with the high tide had put islands (including ours) under water during the height of the storm. (When you are only 10 feet above sea level…) It took a while to rebuild the road and the breakwater.
The images of that night (I was 11 I think, or 12) have stuck with me in my life. It seems few of us ever escape life without some sort of storm sweeping over us. My career in Chaplaincy reveals that clearly. In truth, when someone tells me they have never had to experience such a storm in their life (metaphorically) I usually say, “I’m sorry.” Storms create a newness and the opportunity to see things in new ways and to rebuild differently. They can be terrifying to ride out. However, as you read this there is the reminder that you have survived and lived through all your storms to this point! The landscape of your life may have changed, but adapting is a key component in all life.
Our storms teach us much. They teach us resilience. They teach us true courage and strength. They teach us lessons about community and being part of a community. One of the things they also teach us is greater compassion towards those around us. How have your storms changed you?