Genesis, part 2: Clean-up in Aisle 5 Sunday, Feb 28 2010 

The other defining moment was a year or two after the night when everyone went motionless in the dark.

The news for the past month had been non-stop images of Katrina’s aftermath. Now Hurricane Rita was bearing down on our area. Although I had food and water stored, we were expecting friends who were evacuating from the coast so I decided to make one last run to the store for some odds and ends. I headed down the main street in our little town along which all the stores are located.

I was immediately struck by all the huge “NO WATER” signs in front of every grocery-type stores, from tiny dollar establishments to big box stores. Only one small store had a sign that they’d just received a single shipment of bottled water; I stopped in, out of curiosity.

The typically near-vacant parking lot was crowded, the store was charging twice the usual price and people were jostling and anxious as they edged into line. A police officer walked out with several flats of bottled water and put them in the back of his cruiser.

Things began to feel a bit surreal. I turned and left, distracted by what I’d seen, and continued on down the street.

I ended up in the biggest grocery store in town and was shocked at the scene. It made the day before Thanksgiving look like a ghost town by comparison. People were wild-eyed, dashing around with their carts, barely suppressing their panic. The canned food aisle was stripped bare, with ~ I am not kidding ~ only store-brand jalapeno-flavored Spam left. No tuna, no soup, no beef stew, nothing.

Ditto for the bread, granola bars, crackers and snacks. All bottled water of any type was gone. (And just a few days before, as Rita’s path became more defined, I’d been teased by strangers for being a chicken when they saw me picking up extra gallons of water.)

There were only a couple of bottles of sports drink left and two women were loudly, angrily arguing about who got there first and should get the bottles. I truly thought they were going to come to blows. (A friend later told me that she HAD seen two women get into an actual fist fight over the last flat of water.)

Since I was well-stocked on the essentials I left what few items remained for those who were in full panic mode and went back home. I was stunned by how post-apocalyptic it had all looked, how angry and afraid everyone had been, how willing to take down anyone in their way.

That combination ~ so many people being unprepared in the face of potential impending disaster and their sheer animal panic ~ really threw me, coming as it did on a still-sunny morning in a quiet little town.

It made me realize how fragile the basis of our system is, both in terms of supply and emotions. I’d known it in theory, but to see it played out right in front of me was something completely different.

The still-vivid image of that morning is the other main seed that eventually grew into this blog:  I want so much for people to get out of that loop of need and fear, both for their own sakes and to save what resources remain in those situations for those who didn’t prepare, practically and emotionally.


Genesis, part 1: The Big Freeze Sunday, Feb 28 2010 

Two incidents in particular were the genesis for this blog. Both happened 5 or 6 years ago.

The first was at an evening meeting of nearly two hundred parents and children in a large, windowless upstairs room. It was nearly time for everything to begin and the room was full of people milling around. I was on the board of the group, but one who worked more behind the scenes.

I went downstairs for a last-minute preparation, had a short conversation with a pregnant mom and her children who were stepping into the elevator for the ride up, and then headed back up to the main room. Just as I got there, there was a loud pop and all the power immediately went out.

Ok, so the lights went out. We’ve all had it happen. But what happened next surprised me so much that I still wonder at it, over half a decade later.

Everyone froze. Instantly. Totally. A few children cried, but overall it was an immediate, eerie suspension of everything. Nobody moved, nobody spoke. It was so dark I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face.

I waited for someone to do something, say something. But nobody did. Everyone just waited in frozen silence.

I still couldn’t tell you why, except that it was obvious that someone needed to do something, but I spoke out, even though I am usually the quiet one in large groups. My voice felt like it echoed in the darkness.

I asked anyone with flashlights to get them, asked anyone who might have contact numbers for the pastor or administration of the church in which we were meeting to come to the front, asked someone to call 911 because I knew for a fact there was a pregnant woman in the elevator.

And people did it.

It was as if once I spoke, the spell was broken and people sprang into action. Many suddenly responded and took over. But I spent the rest of the night (and many of the days since then) wondering at that moment.

Why did everyone freeze? Why didn’t anyone do anything? Why did I? And why did they listen to a voice in the darkness when they couldn’t see who was even talking?

It was a glimpse into a mindset that I am still trying to understand, trying to encourage others to see. Maybe if people are more aware of it, it will have less power…..

Thus one reason for this blog.

“It was very bad” Saturday, Feb 27 2010 

“It was very bad, people were screaming, some people were running, others appeared paralyzed. I was one of them…”  Julio Alvarez (

It’s one thing to prepare for power outages, shortages at the store, and broken water pipes, to stock batteries and first aid kits. But the images of the last month’s earthquake in Haiti and today’s near-record quake in Chile show entire blocks, cities, regions devastated. How could one possibly prepare for that?

In a very real way, it’s impossible. Sudden terror often leaves little time to react before its reality is inescapable. And disasters that leave destruction as far as the eye can see mean that all resources are also devastated, both personal and governmental. People are left to help themselves.

Stories emerged from Haiti of looting, either from desperation or impunity, but also of neighborhoods that banded together, formed their own mini-government, arranged and directed aid as best they could. What is the difference? What makes one person freeze and another step into the gap? I’ve thought a lot about this over the years and still don’t have a good answer….

I’ve faced things in my life that others find unthinkable, tell me they don’t know how I’ve survived. And yet they pale in comparison to the human tragedies unfolding on such a massive scale. I can’t honestly even imagine myself in those situations. But I’m determined to keep going, not one paralyzed by the unthinkable.

And I am hopeful that by living my life with a preparedness mindset, by raising my children to believe that there’s always hope, to never give up even in the face of seemingly impossible odds, that they also will be the ones that persevere if, heaven forbid, they are ever in a situation like that. And I hope that for anyone who stumbles across these words, as well.

My thoughts and prayers are with all those who face such seemingly insurmountable challenges. May they persevere.