Saturday, September 9, 2017

I R L (2)

Sometimes, the screeching warnings coming out of real life penetrate the genea-bubble surrounding even the most obtuse of us family history researchers. Just as it had, less than ten days ago, the severe weather warnings have once again shaken me out of my research reverie.

No sooner had Harvey blown out of Houston, than we began picking up the faintest warnings of another storm to come. This time, though, it wasn't Texas which was the target, but Florida.

I've already heard from a sister-in-law who decided to reroute her return trip home to Florida from her vacation; instead, she's headed for a daughter's home in inland Texas. A cousin, also living in the path of Irma but traveling up north at the moment, is also re-evaluating her travel plans. We've heard from others with family and friends in Florida, most of whom are trying their best to leave the state before Irma's arrival. So far, everyone we've heard from has accomplished that goal, but still, the tone is tense, as people are leaving everything behind.

If you've been following A Family Tapestry for any time, you likely realize Florida is one of those states where I have a longstanding ancestral heritage. Though I don't live there—I hadn't even set foot in the state for my first time until just last winter—my roots there grow deep. I have genealogical connections—as well as personal connections—with Tampa, central Florida and the panhandle. I've always wanted to go back and visit those family homes on a research trip.

Hurricanes in Florida are not a rare occurrence, as I'm sure you realize if you've kept an ear attuned to news over the years. In fact, during one year—I think it was Hurricane Andrew that year—one family member's home was completely destroyed, a catastrophic event, to say the least.

Multiply that experience over and over again, by the magnitude of the many years of hurricane history times the number of people living through the trauma, and perhaps that bird's-eye snapshot will get you thinking the very same thing I'm wondering: if Florida is a locale doomed to such repeated devastation, how on earth have people there managed to keep safe all the documentation of their history? Winds, rains, storms—and the ensuing mold and mildew—become bitter taskmasters for the archivists doomed to mop up the aftermath.

Yes, people will somehow get on with their lives—rebuild, placing the new over the rubble of the old—but what about those tokens of where we've been? I've often wondered why I can't find any photographs of my great-grandfather's family, or any other memorabilia of their existence in Florida. Perhaps it's because those are the details which succumb to the fury of those regularly-passing storms.

One wonders what becomes of a people whose yearly existence includes such threats of devastation. It becomes a very different way of life to have to anticipate fleeing in the path of destruction at the approach of the annual "hurricane season."

While I certainly sympathize with those who are facing the facts of Hurricane Irma right now—running the risk of losing their homes if they leave, or their life or safety if they stay—I had never thought about this sort of circumstance as a way of life. Turmoil such as this may enter anyone's life once or twice, perhaps, but having to endure it on a yearly basis seems to introduce a very different dynamic with that type of stress. A thought like that can lead a genealogical researcher to see in a very different light their ancestors who've regularly survived such conditions.

As for me, I am not made of such mettle. I'd take the risk of an occasional earthquake over the wake of such annual destruction, any day.

But for those whose life paths have led them to settle in this weather-worn region, my thoughts and prayers are with you, for personal safety and protection of your family over anything else.   

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