The beach house stands a good hundred meters from the water
and we’re supposed to have one more day of vacation
but the ocean’s waves are knocking on our deck supports;
Hurricane Danny
                                  is falling on Dauphin Island.

Mom rouses kids at six in the morning.
     Pack your things, we have to go.
We don’t question.
We knew this was coming.

The submerged beach sobers us
before a single bowl of cereal breakfast
while adults run through their checklists.
Two uncles are out on a different mission:

What is
                 the condition of
                                                  the bridge
                                                                         linking us
                                                                                               to the mainland?

Weather reports had been background noise all week
as the monster was tracked and studied
for strength and speed. How long
until it would be striking at the shores?

Conversations were had.
What happens if…?
                                    What happens if…?

As children, we understand the urgency;
no cry or complaint is raised
while the cars are efficiently stuffed with our things.
Uncles return.

The bridge
                    is in good condition
                                                        but we cannot wait
                                                                                            any longer.

Roiling waves below offer only a hint of the inbound chaos
as our caravan joins the rush of vacating vacationers.
We stop briefly on the mainland to fill up our gas tanks
before embarking on our final escape to home.

For years after, we could go back to family home videos
to watch clips of that 1997 vacation.
One segment has always stayed with me.
My dad, in the dead of night
aims the camera at the blackened ocean
where only the lights from oil rigs twinkle
like stars crashing into the earth.
The storm is out there, he says.
It’s coming right toward us.

Danny would be the only hurricane to hit the United States that year
dropping 32.52 inches of rain in a 24-hour period on Dauphin Island,
a record yet to be broken. Across four states
it was involved in nine fatalities.

Now almost thirty years later, I find myself revisiting the memory
after weathering maelstroms of people to varying degrees of success.
I wonder how we would have fared if we weren’t prepared.
What was it like for the adults awaking to the storm on our beachstep?
Had one of them been up, like my father in the video, keeping watch?
I just followed orders as a kid. What if I had to be giving the orders?

But most of all, my mind swirls around a lesson
best taught by Mother Nature herself: the call to evacuate.
Our story never had a ‘fight-or-‘ before our flight,
a truth hardly contained to violent skies.

I receive this gift from my younger, observant self
about the care that must be given to choosing your battles
because some people just aren’t worth the nightmare.
Their minds will not change,
                                                     they will not love you back,
and you as well as I will be better off
seeking shelter elsewhere.