By Lindsay Tahan firstname.lastname@example.org
ST. AUGUSTINE – Hurricane Matthew not only destroyed homes and businesses, but the aftermath of this hurricane left families including their children feeling hopeless and scared about their future livelihoods. Even after weeks since the hurricane hit, people are still without homes and without businesses and have high hopes that things will soon return to normal.
St. Augustine resident Canaan Stevens, who has five children, struggles to recover from Hurricane Matthew. Stevens and her family evacuated St. Augustine and went to Atlanta on Oct. 6 where she and her family stayed at her sibling’s home. Stevens and her family live on Anastasia Island near Oasis Restaurant. Before evacuating, Stevens placed sandbags in front of the garage. When the hurricane was over, Stevens’ husband returned to St. Augustine on Oct.11 and Stevens and her five children came back to St. Augustine on Oct. 16. When Stevens and her family returned to St. Augustine they noticed that their garage and homeschool room both flooded with 18 inches of water and their two air conditioning units and all ductwork was damaged. As of now, Stevens and her family are sorting through damaged items. Stevens said that her children have been struggling to get back to their normal lives saying they have been “a little weepy and overwhelmed.” Her children lost their power wheel, sporting equipment, shoes, schoolbooks, and more. She has not noticed any severe changes in her children’s behavior. Stevens and her family hope to return to their home by Dec. 13.
Christopher Meier, a Flagler College senior, also experienced destruction to his home after Hurricane Matthew. Meier decided to evacuate the night Gov. Rick Scott said on television that people would die if they chose to stay instead of evacuating. “Living in Florida for most of my life, we’ve been through so many storms that we figured we could just ride this one out. However, this time we just had a feeling we should go. We didn’t know where to go at first, but luckily my friend who lives in Hastings let me stay with him and his family,” said Meier.
For two and a half days Meier and his mother stayed at a friend’s house in Hastings, Fla. Meier lives with his mother on Ribera Street while he attends Flagler College. Meier did expect to receive some water damage but only to the bottom steps of his home, he had no idea the water would get inside his home. Before evacuating, Meier placed some things up high in case of flooding, but again he did not expect a massive damage. “We didn’t take it seriously enough,” said Meier. Meier and his mother returned to St. Augustine Sunday morning and found that the city was ruined. “The most surreal sight was finding pumpkins scattered all across town from the church on the corner of King Street and Ribera. Some of them were placed perfectly in people’s yards, or on the roads, while others were smashed open and strewn across the street like road kill,” said Meier.
Meier lost everything in his home, including all his furniture, most of him and his mother’s clothes, his entire comic book collection, DVDS, books, and the floors, carpets, and tiles had to be ripped out. Meier and his mother are still staying in the house; they cleaned up the home so that it would be in a livable state. “It is still out of sorts, though, with boxes everywhere and clutter,” said Meier. Meier has been rebuilding his home, cleaning up the yard, and trying to prevent any mold and sewage from fouling up the home. Though Meier is upset because he lost a lot of photos, personal and sentimental items, he says he is having a “Fight Club” moment where he quotes from the movie, “the things you own end up owning you.” In reference to this quote Meier says, “I no longer have the burden of all the stuff I’ve accumulated over my life,” says Meier. Meier says that the situation is terrible, but he views it as almost a freeing experience not to be burdened. “If I could, would I go back and prevent this loss? I would, but not so much for me, but for my mom so she wouldn’t have lost photos and things she had attachments to,” said Meier.
Joy Baucum and her family of four evacuated St. Augustine Oct. 6 to her husband’s bosses home on St. Johns River in Elkton, Fla. Baucum never expected that the hurricane would cause this much damage to her home; she expected a tree to fall. However, her home was flooded with 9.1 feet of water. Baucum did not board up her home, but she stored items high up that she was not able to take with her. After the hurricane, Baucum’s husband returned to St. Augustine Oct. 8 and Baucum and her children returned Sunday afternoon. “I saw my house and home office flooded. Everything was such a mess from everything flooded,” says Baucum. Baucum and her family lost their home and office and she has to relocate her home office to satellite offices donated by local attorneys. Baucum is staying with her father in Vilano until her home is repaired or is able to find a place to rent that is affordable for a family of four. Baucum has two sons. Her oldest who is 11-years old, Noah, has adapted well and this hurricane has not affected his school performance. Baucum’s 3-year old son, Shannon, is very confused and wants to go back to his home. Her youngest son was sent to live with her in-laws in Alabama because of the cost of daycare. Her youngest, is still coping with the loss of his home but will be returning back to St. Augustine Nov. 4. Both of her son’s birthdays were canceled due to the circumstances the family is in since the hurricane. “Shannon lost toys, his clothes, bedding, etc and Noah has lost almost everything, but we have replaced the clothes,” says Baucum. Baucum says that her youngest, Shannon, is emotional and cries to go home and her oldest, Noah, is the same as Shannon, but does not mind staying at his grandpa’s home. “I have become scared of hurricanes. This is my third loss, two rentals in Pensacola, Fla. from Hurricane Opal and Erin and moved back to St. Augustine to get away from hurricanes and now Hurricane Matthew. I think this effected my husband, Stacy, the most,” says Baucum. Baucum says that the contractor gave her an estimate of 8 to 12 months until she and her family are able to return to their home. Baucum says the community has helped out, especially Anastasia Baptist Church and longtime friends.