Okay, where was I?
Those men had just stolen my raft from me. Once the shock wore off, I realized that they must have been working for Bastion — formerly known as Academi, Blackwater, and half a dozen other names. Ever since Hurricane Katrina, these mercenaries have been appearing on the streets of American cities in the wake of disasters. They’re supposedly there to keep order, but they’re just lawless bands of armed men doing whatever their bosses tell them to and whatever they can get away with.
I’m not trying to be political here. All I know is they stole my raft. That’s enough for me.
I spent the rest of the night in my apartment listening to the news. Still no power, no cell towers, nothing. Emergency services were hopelessly overloaded and the National Guard and Red Cross still didn’t have much of a presence on the ground. In other words, no real news, which was not good. So I read a book by hand-cranked flashlight and eventually went to sleep.
I woke up to the sound of my phone ringing. For a moment, I was still half-asleep and didn’t realize how strange and important that sound was. Then I bolted upright and grabbed my phone.
It was Alejandra! She had been trying to reach me since the storm hit. She wanted to know if I was okay. She apologized for calling so early, but we were both so relieved that she had gotten through.
We talked for over an hour. While we were talking, I pulled the foamboard off of my window and looked outside. It was just after sunrise. The water was still almost as high as it had been immediately after the storm. There was still no sign of power.
I knew it was time to follow through with my plan.
So I went to my closet, grabbed my bugout bag, added as many extra supplies I could carry, and poured some water into the empty two gallon bottle from my kitchen. Then I grabbed my solar charger, tablet, and phone, put them in a bag, and headed out the door.
That was the start of the longest walk in my life. I walked for hours and hours to get out of Miami. I heard that the buses were still running in Ft. Lauderdale, so I knew I would have to walk there. Through a few feet of water. Carrying a lot of gear. Past all types of looters and Bastion and God knows what else.
Thank God I was in good shape. And thank God that there were some long stretches of road that were actually above water. There were hundreds of us heading north on foot, maybe a few thousand by the time night fell. I talked to a few of them, but the crowd was mostly quiet. It was a solemn procession. We all knew we had to get to Ft. Lauderdale and we all knew we had to do it before dark.
It had just gotten dark outside when I made it to the bus station. Chaos ensued as too many people tried to get on too few buses. People argued, people fought, people pleaded for a seat for their children. There were dozens of extra buses — some from companies, some from the government, some diesel, some electric. There was even a big red double decker bus there for some reason. I really wasn’t sure where they all came from or what all of the options were. All I know is that I paid about two month’s pay in cash for a single bus ticket from Ft. Lauderdale to New Orleans. Those who didn’t have the cash got left behind and probably ended up in the FEMA camp.
So that’s how I made it out of Miami. The bus took me to New Orleans and the train took me to southern Illinois. Alejandra met me at the station with a change of clothes and took me to her apartment on the edge of town. It’s small apartment for two people, but it technically has two bedrooms, and she gave me the one that she was using as her home office. That was so sweet of her. She’s three years younger than me, so I used to always be the “big sister” who was watching out for her. Now she’s the one watching out for me. Thank you, Alejandra. If it weren’t for you offering me a place to stay, I might still be stuck in Miami!