On reaching my room, I turn on the TV and the news is flooded with the landfall predicted for the early hours on the wedding night.
The hotel has graciously extended my stay by one night, as I am already in house though their waiting list is several pages long, and every room is taken.
I am told people from Long Island are evacuating to this hotel, which is a five star hotel and could easily rack up a goodly amount in just three days.
You seldom think that the terrible things you see in movies or on TV will ever happen to you. I had the same mindset… the hurricane was deep in the sea and landfall was not due till after the wedding and it was essential that this wedding be completed with grace as the couple had waited five years and the celebrations not be shortchanged.
As I prepared for the last Salah of the night, the wind howled at my window, and I wished I knew the dua that Prophet Muhammad would pray when the wind would be coming his way. They say that he (pbuh) would become worried, as the Wind had been an instrument of punishment for past disobedient nations and thus the dua to protect his (pbuh) people. I regretted that I had not memorized it.
I was deeply thankful to be inside in the warmth and security of four solid walls of the hotel.
In the morning after Fajr I fell back into a fitful sleep, and woke up with a start to find that I had five minutes left before breakfast wraps up. On the elevator I met some of the wedding guests packed and checking out…….. not to go to the wedding but driving home out of state before landfall.
This gave me pause and I mulled over the idea of driving back to Georgia. Visions of what I had seen at the coast of SC after Hurricane Hugo with huge trees strewn like matchsticks mile after mile arose in my minds eye.
I was finding it hard to believe that any harm could come to me other than being stranded in NY. This belief slowly dissipated as I observed the behavior of others.
I called the shuttle to take me to the wedding, and the driver got off with tons of food for a lady sitting in the front seat……. Food being delivered for several days to her rooms. We drove to the pharmacy, where she got off to fill an advanced prescription and I saw she was aged and walked with difficulty…………” I broke my hip” she replied to my unspoken question and hobbled using the shopping cart as a walker to the pharmacy.
Perhaps she was one of those who had left Long Island and sought refuge in the hotel.
I wondered how one chose what to leave and what to bring along in such circumstances…would you bring things of emotional value or monetary value?
Entering the wedding house, which was ablaze with hustle and bustle all thoughts of the hurricane steadily approaching our doorstep receded into the immediate drama of the moment.
The grooms suit was in Brooklyn, a chivalrous young man offered to go fetch it, knowing that the highways were going to close at 7 pm…while the groom waited The rest of the house was hustling to make it to the venue in time.
I walked out, the wind had stopped and the air had turned chilly. It was the lull before the storm.
In all this excitement I realized why Allah Subhanawataala has dedicated so many of his instructions to human behavior and huqooq al ebad……..as it is human interactions of love, anger, worry, impatience, irritability, anxiety, happiness, joy, exhilaration and anticipation which supersedes all emotions of fear or danger of even something as strong and predictable as a Hurricane…
We ran up and down to get the bride ready and the groom got his suit and soon the cavalcade of cars left for the venue. The roads were deserted and the towns that we passed resembled ghost towns. Until we got to the venue for the wedding where the hustle and bustle returned and all thoughts of the hurricane receded.
Night fell……….tears were shed, poetry was read, and orchids bloomed and rose in tall vases with imperiousness. People from all over the country and some even from across the oceans celebrated. Soon the hour of Rukhsati came and her hubby whisked off the bride.
Suddenly the quietness of the street became ominous but the warmth of loving friends overcame all anxieties.
I returned to the hotel and checked the weather center. What would I do if I was by myself and stranded in the hotel? Thankfully the landfall had been delayed it was going to happen tomorrow night and perhaps would be off the coast of New Jersey.
I hated myself for feeling relieved but it was like being on the Day of Judgment when you know that you have been spared even though the next person may not have had this good fortune…
My mother used to say that when you are tired sleep could overcome you even if you are at the guillotine…and thus it was for me. I prayed and fell into bed mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted with not a thought in my head except that Allah wakes me up for fajr.
The next morning rushing down to breakfast I noticed that the hotel was full, that housekeeping had been minimized due to shortage of staff and that strong able men were bringing in crates of water bottles. I checked the hotel did not have a generator and they said they would hand out glow lights if the power were cut………
By now I had given up the idea of driving to Georgia, my hurricane coach had informed me that the Baltimore highways were strewn with numerous accidents and had to be closed down, and that the roads that I would be taking to go south were those that were affected by the hurricane and the winds and caused fallen power lines.
I later found out that some of the young people from Chicago had tried all night to get a rental car to drive west, but to no avail. They had noted on their trip to get a car that LaGuardia had been reported to be flooded uptill the wings of the planes……..
It was a dreary grey morning, the wind had started to howl and the leaves were no longer swirling but were traveling with speed as if on a journey and I did not know a soul in the hotel as all wedding guests had left.
The cold had fallen like an icy reminder of what was hurtling our way. I packed my bags and asked the hotel if I could check out early they were very happy as they said Red Cross was on stand by and needed a room…
I would be imposing on my friend, as there were roughly 10-12 families from out of state that would have to be accommodated given the closure of all transportation and roads and actually a curfew in some parts of the state.
I booked the shuttle to take me to the wedding house; they also informed me that the morning shuttle was making its last run with me, and that there would be no more transportation available.
I got in the shuttle knowing that I would not be returning and asked myself how I could help my friend. I leaned forward and asked the driver if I could please buy some water……………..
To be continued……..
- Night-time View of Sandy’s Landfall – SpaceRef (mbcalyn.com)