Just One Breath

An American girl in Scotland, figuring things out one step at a time

How I dealt with Helplessness.


Over the past few days I have felt more helpless than any time in my entire life. I am here in Scotland and my parents and brother are in North East PA and Upstate NY. Not only is my family there but so are my best friends. I am for the most part cut off from them unless there is a miracle that we meet on Skype unexpectedly or they respond asap to one of my text messages. There is the nice occasional planned meeting for a talk but why is this all important? Well, Mother Nature is why.

I am always there for my family and friends and since Thursday I have been utterly helpless to do anything for them. I feel as though I have truly been tested in my resolve to stay here. For those of you who do not know, my parents are my everything. My family has ALWAYS been the key element in my life. Yes I have gained a wonderful family here in Scotland but the parents that made me needed me and I couldn’t be there. I watched as the river swelled and broke, as homes were destroyed and no one would answer the phone. I couldn’t get answers from my family or friends that were scattered all over the region. All I saw were the pictures. Bloomsburg was under water… How were Shawn and his family? Shickshinny and Nanticoke… How were Jeanann and her family. Sunbury and Selinsgrove…. How were Heidi and her Gram? Where was Sara? Was she in Wilkes-Barre? Is she ok? Is Holly evacuated? I didn’t know, I didn’t know, I didn’t know! Worse than that all was that I had no clue what was going on in downtown Wilkes-Barre. Where was my Dad? How were the dogs? How was my Mom? I was cut off. The news was not updating fast enough and all I saw devastation. I frantically sent out messages on Facebook asking for anyone to update me on their whereabouts and condition. Nothing. Nothing!

Finally I heard from one friend, then another and another… My mother got in touch with me on Skype and updated me that things were getting bad in my neighborhood and an evacuation was likely. I wanted to be home to help. I wanted my father to not be stressed out. Where was he going to go with the two dogs. I kept thinking that it didn’t matter if I was there and I had to be evacuated, I would have been there with my family and I would have known what was happening.

When my father assured me he was going to be out of the house with the dogs by 1PM on Thursday and safe at my brothers I began to breathe easier but how was my Mom in Upstate NY? She was not able to be home with my father and that was stressful but they were both safe and things could be replaced.

When my father had reached my brother’s home my focus changed. I turned to Facebook and the local PA news channels. I found a page that updated with cold hard facts every few minutes and debunked the rumors that were spreading as fast as the water was rising. I began to pay attention to everything I could find and had Skype on so people could call. I couldn’t be there but I could be reached and I could know what was happening. I let my self cry but did not get hysterical, what would that have helped. Information was the key.

Yesterday I found that the TV channel I used to work for, WBRE, had moved and was streaming live. I was right there. I could see my streets and I could see the water. I watched and cried and then paid attention. It was all I could do. Pay attention and keep the life line open. Seeing my bridge like this was so hard. Knowing my home was in such danger hurt so badly. The place I had lived for 23 years. The streets I have walked thousands of times were now becoming part of the river.

The river right behind my house and my father's church. Market and River Streets. Courtesy of a WBRE viewer.

Keep walking past the eagles and you will come to my house. Courtesy of a WBRE viewer.

People touched base with me all day. On the live stream I could see the shots of the river and watch the water levels rise and then finally begin to fall. Helplessness turned to hopefulness. Wilkes-Barre was safe but so many people that I know were effected by the disaster.

Today things are getting back to normal. Some cities are still well under water, others are in cleanup mode and yet others are still not allowed home. I too will get back to normal but when? I love my life. I am so lucky but when will it get easier to be separated from my home? Should it get easier? Maybe it is better if it never does. I have so much love for my family and friends. I don’t want to not worry about them.

Throughout this helpless experience I have learned that it is ok to worry but accept that I can’t change things. It is ok to cry to relieve the stress but don’t lose grip on the reality of the situation. I can handle anything as long as I can focus on getting the information. I may not have been there physically but I was there with them all and they knew I was watching, listening and praying… and I still am.  x heather

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