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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Gearing Up for Gustav

We are just a couple of days away now from Gustav's landfall, most likely somewhere along the LA coast. And I have to say, I am honestly afraid. Growing up in South Louisiana gives you a certain blase' attitude when it comes to hurricanes. Its a fact of life here, and we generally make it as light as possible. However, Katrina taught us the very difficult lesson of just how deadly these storms can be, and I have been sick to my stomach the past few days waiting for the unknown. Waiting has to be the worst part. We don't know what's going to happen or how bad it will be, just that its coming and we better be as prepared as possible.

As frightening as it was to ride out Katrina in our little house, I am petrified of what Gustav is going to bring. Mostly because Chris was here with us during Katrina, and I always feel safe when he's here. But this time since he's now a firefighter, the possibilities of loss are so much greater for our family. The guys at the station have been insanely busy getting things ready for the storm. They've made sure the generators are working and there is enough gas in the trucks. They've bought masses of supplies for the station. I really haven't seen my husband much the past three days. When he got home Thursday, we sat outside on our patio together as we do every evening for our Toucey family debriefing. I fill him in on what's going on at home and with the kids, and he tells me about his day at the station. However, this time he said, "I want you to take the kids and go to your Aunt's in Alexandria." He said he has a bad feeling about this one. I flat out told him no. I'm not leaving. The kids and I are going to ride out the storm at the station with the other firefighters and their families. I feel like we will be safe there. Its a strong building. But, the real reason I won't leave is I can't leave him. He has to stay. As nervous and sick as I am now, I don't know that I'd be able to breathe not knowing what he's doing and if he's safe.

Eastside's philosophy is that the community pays their pay checks, so they will go when they're called no matter what the winds are like. This scares me more than any fire he could ever walk into. He has the fireproof equipment and the necessary training to make it out of even the biggest blaze. I believe in the capability of his instructors and superiors to give him the tools to make it out alive. But that gear isn't bullet proof. Its not going to stop debris from hurting him. I am terrified. Today is Chris' very first 24 hour shift at the station after finishing his fire training. Talk about a baptism by fire, no pun intended.

And since Katrina, the babies are now old enough to know what is coming. They talk about it at school and watch the weather. So, the past few days have been stressful for Chris and I just trying to soothe their fears. I am packing coloring books, charged up game boys, favorite blankies and stuffed animals in hopes that these will distract them from the severity of the storm and the fact that their daddy is walking out into it. I saw a t-shirt once that said, "If you think its tough being a firefighter, try being a firefighter's wife." And these past few days have really shown me how true that is. Luckily Chris' chief has asked that the wives serve as support staff, listening to the radio, cooking, and what not. I will be making a big pot of gumbo Monday afternoon so our guys will have a good meal to come back to. It may not be much compared to what our husbands are doing, but hopefully it will give me enough sense of purpose to distract from the worry that is tying me in knots. Its like a grown up version of coloring books and gameboys.

WAFB videographer Rick Portier, the man who inspired me to start my own blog, has written a blog about what its like to go to the front of the storm and leave those you love behind. http://wafb.typepad.com/covering_gustav/ I cried when I read it because I felt every word he wrote about being torn between doing what he loves and what he has to do for his work and wanting to be at home, safe with his wife. I don't know Mrs. Portier, but I know that she is likely feeling what I am at this moment and that makes me cry for her and for me. Gustav can take what he likes from my life. Things are replaceable I don't care about anything here as long as he brings my husband back home to me in one piece. I'm pretty sure that, though our exact circumstances are different, Mrs. Portier probably feels the same way.

I ask that you all pray, because at this point that's all we can do. Please pray for Chris and for Rick and for all the other men and women who will leave their loved ones behind and walk out into God knows what to do what it is they've been called to do.

I will try to keep my blog updated as much as possible (if possible at all) as to what is going on at the station and with our guys and our families. In the meantime, I am cleaning up and packing up and trying to keep my nerves in check. I may not be saving lives or anything of that magnitude, but I have been called to do a job as well, to a be a firefighter's wife and a mother, and I plan on doing it to the best of my ability.