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#ihateirma

hurricane-irma-miami

#ihateirma

#ihateirma

This was a much-used hashtag on various forms of social media during the recent storm that devastated many Caribbean islands and caused major damage to the Florida Keys and power outages throughout most of Miami-Dade. But instead of angry Floridians, I was overwhelmed to witness members of our Community being kind, helpful and caring. Friends, colleagues, neighbors, relatives reached out to each other, offering shelter and supplies, tracking the path of the storm together, waiting and watching and praying for it to pass without causing too much destruction.

I live in an apartment building where many residents decided to stay and weather out the storm. A WhatsApp group was set up so that everyone could communicate and receive updated information on what was happening in the building with regards to power, water, air conditioning and TV and internet services. This instilled a feeling of togetherness and gave the residents a sense of security. At one point, when the cooling tower was shut off and we lost TV and internet, many residents congregated in the lobby just to avoid being alone in their apartments. I offered to teach a pilates class to destress my neighbors and was amazed to see how many men, women and children came down to the lobby with their mats to take the class.

During the long day and night when we were holed up unable to leave the building, we took it in turns to man the lobby in 2-hour shifts as the security staff were forced to leave. We played cards, dominoes and scrabble, shared snacks and stories about our lives and families. I got to know and become friends with many of the residents who I have seen in passing over the years and with whom I had never exchanged more than a brief hello, a smile or a nod.

After the storm, I was impressed by the number of residents who offered to clean up the pool area and driveway which were covered in debris from the surrounding landscaping. We are blessed and grateful that Miami was spared by the shift of the hurricane’s path. We are also blessed that we live in a Community where caring, sharing and giving are the real hashtags!

In difficult times, we have the choice to deal with stress in a positive or a negative manner. Life is full of challenges – be the best that you can be, do the best that you can do and brave the storm with a smile! #ilovemycommunity

Nikita Chugani, PMA®-CPT

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