by Stacey Hallberg, Gamma Iota
As we say, “We Live for each other”. It is a pledge we take as naïve college freshmen. We know so little then, and yet, we want to believe in and belong to this secret society where we call each other “sisters” and say magic words of the Creed: “it’s more than a ritual; it’s a way of life”.
Never has our motto been more true than during Hurricane Irma, the strongest, biggest, baddest storm in recent history. Irma devastated the Florida Keys and impacted almost every city in our state, but she was no match for the strength of the Pi’s.
I belong, like many of you, to a group of amazing women initially brought together by sorority life of college days long ago. It was at the University of Florida (Gamma Iota) in the 1980’s when big hair, pearls and espadrilles were popular. We met as pledge sisters, roommates and friends, and over the years, traveled cross country and abroad for weddings, showers and funerals. We vowed to always make our annual Girls Weekend (GW) trip to renew our friendship and support each other through life’s challenges. And, thirty years later, we still make that trip every year.
We were in GW planning mode when IRMA decimated the BVI’s (one of our favorite GW spots) as a category 5 headed our way. Pi’s in motion and our text chain began with offers of a home for evacuation for families and pets, food supplies and assistance with preparation. Next came support as the storm began, first in the Keys then Naples, then Miami and beyond. Twelve of us in different locations, all but three in Florida. “Get out, evacuate, I’ll come get you” texts were flying and working as our west coast sisters took refuge with us in Central Florida. But some didn’t or wouldn’t leave and our concern grew as we texted through the night, scared but helping each other like the chosen family we have grown to be.
When the storm ended, we all counted our blessings, all but one, Lesli our Ft. Lauderdale Pi. Lesli had lost contact with her Mother in Law, Linda, a charming, but stubborn Conch, who would not leave her home in the lower Keys. Sunday, then Monday, then Tuesday came and went without word of Linda and her 88 year old husband, Lyn. The Keys took the hardest hit with a 10 foot storm surge, 15 foot waves and 140 mile an hour winds…a challenge for any Conch! Days were passing and texts are flying with little to do but hope and pray. Pi’s to the rescue again as Ellen (another Ft. Lauderdale sister) drives from her safe place in Central Florida to the Florida Keys in search of Linda. Carrying a medical rescue ID (thanks to her doctor husband and fellow Gator) she braves the downed power lines, boat strewn roads and washed out bridges passing National Guard blockades to find Mile Marker 53. Meanwhile, we’re all glued to our phones hoping and praying that Ellen (now out of contact due to no cellular service or power) finds Linda alive and well. It has been three days without word and we all feared the worst.
Ellen travels seven hours to MM53 and an address but without GPS, street signs or markers, the home is hard to find. She finds National Guardsmen going door to door looking for survivors then finds a shell shocked local who walks her to the location. A knock at the door and a lipstick wearing, well dressed Linda opens the door to the storm worn stranger. “Who are you”? Linda asks. Ellen answers, “I’m Lesli’s sister and I’ve come to take you back with me”.
As I look back at those college days and the choices we made as young women trying to be more grown up than we were, I am grateful that ADPi found me! I’m grateful for the gift of these truly amazing women that are so much better and stronger today than ever before. I’m grateful for the strength, their friendship and their loyalty as together we face all that life gives us. And, I’m grateful that We Live for Each Other!