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November 11 – A very special day


The hours and minutes since typhoon Yolanda have been challenging me to remain positive and to focus on my faith that no matter what happens, All is Well. At times I must admit, I found that hard to do.

My big brother Fred lives on Boracay Island in the Philippines. His island is situated on the west side, center of the country’s land masses. My stomach lurched when I learned that Fred was directly in line with the path taken by the eye of the storm. Six hours before the typhoon’s fury struck, I was able to Skype with him. I asked Fred if he was worried, and he said that after surviving many other typhoons, he felt confident they would survive this one too. Was he putting on a brave face for his kid sister, or was he really convinced of his safety? I’d never know.

After we hung up, I watched Boracay Bay from a live webcam located above the beach. People strolled by as if nothing was amiss, and while the low tide stretched far out, clam diggers filled their sacks and children skipped, leaving footprints behind. After a few hours, the palm tree leaves began to ripple and then sway as the winds picked up. The tide had turned and the seas grew a little higher. The previously gentle waves began to fill with an expectancy, rising crests that seemed to reflect an urgency of energy. Around two in the morning (UK time) I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore, so I turned off the computer and fell asleep. Sometime during the night, the Boracay webcam went dead and I woke to the realization that all news of Boracay and my brother went with it.

When I turned on my computer, a forwarded email from my sister in Georgia contained the last words that Freddy wrote:

Will hit this pm. I’m hunkered down. So far no big deal. But this is a big one. No one can get off island cuz all boats gone to safe anchorage. Will advise when it’s over. Wish us luck!
Ur old fart bro

The message was typical of our big brother in times of stress – make light of it and keep laughing.

While trying to enjoy my weekend events as planned, I spent every spare hour at home, both day and night, searching the internet, trying to find people who knew my brother. As soon as I found their names on a blog or website, I searched for their contact details, and finding them, I tried to make contact, but all attempts failed.

The first glimmer of hope came yesterday when my sister discovered a tweet on Huffington Post from a writer who is staying in Boracay. He reported that Boracay had escaped the worst of the storm. Diane tweeted him and sent details of our brother, hoping he might have word of Fred. I was able to find the writer on Skype and I requested connection. At last, miracle of miracles, he replied. A loud, long “whoop” bounced echoes off the walls of my kitchen, frightening the living daylights out of my dog, Tess. The Huffington Post tweeter (bless you, Norm Schriever) Skype-messaged that all electricity, internet, and utilites were down, but the island had managed to escape the worst of the horrific damage now being televised across the world.  As far as he knew there were no deaths or loss of buildings on Boracay Island.

While my family were relieved to hear this heartening news, we still had not received any contact from Fred. My sister in Florida found another name and address of someone in the Philippines who might have news of Fred’s condition. My nephew, whose wife is from the Philippines and who has been to Boracay to visit Fred, sent a detailed description of where his house is situated above the beach. While chasing every lead, I also continued to send Skype messages to my brother. I figured if he had any battery left on his phone, he might just be able to pick up some signal.

Last night, just as I was ready to turn off my computer and climb into bed, news from my sister in Georgia came through. She’d just got a call from Fred! He’s alive! My sister didn’t know if it was a Skype call or Fred’s regular cell service; he only spoke long enough to say he was okay, without fuel or electricity, and his house was intact. He hung up quickly, for his cell phone battery was low.

With all the sadness, grief, shock, and horror that rips at my heart for the gentle people of this devastated country, and the overwhelming realization that this will take many years for them to recover, I see a shining light in the midst. Today is a very, very good day. A grateful day. Thank you God and all the angels for looking after my big brother.

Freddy is alive.

To all folks who are trying to find loved ones, maybe Skype will work for you. It’s worth trying.

For those of you who have loved ones missing in the Philippines, we found a missing persons search facility posted on the site of a Manila TV news station: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/334739/news/nation/database-yolanda-missing-persons-inquiries

For those of you who wish to contribute to aid organizations that are currently in the Philippines bringing supplies, food, water and medicine and who can handle the transport logistics for getting supplies to the people in the worst hit areas, there is an excellent article in the Huffington Post which offers several aid links: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/09/philippines-haiyan-how-to-help-_n_4247106.html.

Please feel free to copy this and post it to your blogs and Facebook pages. The people in the Philippines need all the help they can get.

Thank you.

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1 Comment

November 11, 2013 · 3:53 am