After watching TV coverage of Hurricane Dorian’s intensity, first and foremost on my mind was my lifelong friend, Carol, who lives in Melbourne, Florida. No matter what I tried to do, the image of this major threat to her kept interrupting my thoughts and I accomplished nothing.
I phoned Carol. When I heard her cheerful voice, I asked, “Are you ready to leave yet?”
“I’m not going anywhere,” she said.
“Why not?” I asked.
“It’s not that serious,” she said.
“140 mph winds can demolish your house!” I said. “Lives have already been lost in the Bahamas!”
“It’ll be fine,” she said. “None of my friends are leaving.”
We talked and laughed for a while in the same way we’ve done all our lives, and I finally accepted that, being there, she surely knew more about the state of things than I could learn from The Weather Channel. Besides, when she said, in her unique way, “I’m not afraid. God is always with me,” how could I argue?
I hung up feeling a little better. My mind journeyed to a time long ago — when Carol ignored another danger. We were two young girls who thought the world was our oyster.
I had my driver’s license; she had a learner’s permit. One summer day, after much cajoling from Carol, her mother permitted her to drive the family car, a large Buick with a standard transmission, a few miles down the road, with me beside her. I felt honored that her mother trusted me ... but was nervous, too. This was a big responsibility!
“There’s one condition,” said her mother. “You absolutely must not drive across the Kanawha City Bridge.”
In those days, the bridge had only two lanes as it spanned the Kanawha River connecting Kanawha City to the East Side of Charleston.
“Oh, no; I wouldn’t do that,” Carol said, ever so innocently.
Her mother handed her the keys and off we went. Driving through our small town with the radio blaring, we felt much older than our years and were giddy with excitement. Talking and giggling, we barely paid attention to where she was driving until we suddenly realized we were on the ramp that led directly onto the Kanawha City Bridge.
“Uh-oh! Your mom said not to cross the bridge,” I said. But, by this time, she had no choice. She slowed down and the man behind us honked his horn impatiently. Carol kept driving.
Once we were off the bridge, she pulled off the road and stopped. She was shaking. “You want me to drive?” I said.
“Nope,” she said stubbornly. “Just give me a minute.”
Regaining her composure, she pulled into the traffic again. It seemed everything would be okay until we noticed traffic getting heavier. Looking at my watch, I said, “Of course, it’s five o’clock! People are getting off work.”
We hadn’t counted on that.
“It wouldn’t have happened if we’d stayed on the other side of the bridge like your mother told us,” I said, a little agitated. “And the worst thing is, the only way home is back across that bridge!”
To get back to the bridge, she had to turn onto one of the busiest streets in Charleston. Cars were everywhere, some going too fast, others turning, and drivers were noticeably displeased with Carol’s obvious inexperience. She was nervous. I could feel my heart pounding. Our guardian angels were certainly on duty that day because, somehow, we made it back to the bridge, and crossed it.
Finally, we were on the road that led to home and the traffic lessened. Breathing a sigh of relief, we glanced impishly at each other and broke into hysterical laughter. Undoubtedly, it was our bodies’ way of releasing stored up tension.
Anything might have happened that day to this young girl who inadvertently disobeyed a higher authority. But, I believe, as a child of God-fearing parents, she was protected. Proverbs 14:26 says, “He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge.”
Although nervous and inexperienced, even at that young age, she found the courage and confidence to finish what she started.
This is only one of many adventures Carol and I experienced together over the years. We helped each other through many of life’s important events: heartbreak, childbirth, loss of loved ones, and others — sometimes by long-distance, but always there for each other.
And, as we faced Hurricane Dorian, my friend’s unwavering tenacity was not that different than it was the day I asked, “Do you want me to drive?”
Carol and I have been friends since childhood. We are polar opposites. But when she says, “God is always with me,” I believe her.