Be prepared.

As I awoke on Wednesday morning, a warm, dry air rustled the blinds to our master bedroom slider. I tiredly made my way into school, greeted my class, and started on the day’s lessons. By 10:45am a large plume of smoke was visible from my classroom’s west-facing window. We all peered out at it for a few minutes, some students hopped on their phones to Google its location, but business as usual resumed until adjournment around 12:20pm.

Making my way to the 78 westbound in my car gave me a clearer picture of the multitude of firestorms that were occurring as my class and I diligently worked away at school. To the east there was a smoke plume, another one to the north, and the one to the west had grown in size since I had seen it earlier.

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Facing south across 78 freeway in San Marcos

“Not again…” I said aloud.

Almost instantly after the words crossed my lips, I fell into a panic. I had survived San Diego firestorms before, but I hadn’t had to do so with a baby.

I got home from school and told my husband and father of my sights during the 15-minute commute. Dad switched to the news and we watched in amazement as footage of flames and smoke dominated familiar areas of Carlsbad. Kennedy was napping peacefully in our bedroom. The news remained on at my house for the rest of the day and my phone stayed glued to my palm.

“We should build an emergency kit,” I suggested to Fabian. I felt so guilty. How could I not have these things ready already?! What would I do if something happened? She’s NINE MONTHS OLD ALREADY! FIGURE IT OUT, ANTOINETTE! I’m a horrible mom. I’m a horrible mom. I’m a HORRIBLE! Mom.

I walked the aisles of a nearly empty WalMart in a daze. The smoke was starting to dominate the sky outside and I couldn’t figure out in my head a clear plan for evacuation and survival should it ever come to that for our family. Guilt and nervousness mounted as I followed behind my husband, preoccupied. As he pushed our cart, my baby girl made cooing noises and smiled. Her blissful demeanor gave me a sense of urgency. This beautiful life I had helped to create needed protecting, and because I was given the title as her mom, it was my job to protect her.

I glanced at my phone and Googled a list of items for a standard emergency pack. I also glanced at Facebook long enough to figure out that flames in San Marcos were threatening many familiar communities as well as my beloved alma mater.

After we arrived home, I began assembling our kit of essentials – first aid, water, flashlights, non-perishables, sanitary items, blankets, and a list of medications to grab in a snap. I felt better about myself as an adult and as a mother after doing so.

It’s unlikely that in this instance my family will need to evacuate or be displaced at all due to wildfires. However, disasters aren’t announced or predicted. Just ask anyone who was living in New Orleans prior to August 29, 2005. At least now we are somewhat ready.

Today is day four of firestorm mayhem here in San Diego. Day three of my experience with it. I pray for the firefighters, military personnel, emergency responders, and those displaced. I pray that this mess can be contained. I pray for comfort.

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Some of our emergency items.

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