Last year Beliefnet member Jennifer Martinez and her family lost almost everything when three violent hurricanes--Charley, Frances, and Ivan--hit their central Florida hometown. They are one year further down the road than victims of Hurricane Katrina, but their lives have been irrevocably altered. Because the Martinez family has no TV, Jennifer hadn't heard about Hurricane Katrina on August 30th. On the day the killer hurricane struck the Gulf Coast, she unwittingly began a discussion that crystallized much of what many victims of the hurricane were feeling: Where is God?

8/30/2005 6:31 PM

I have a 7 yr old little girl and a husband, we live in central Fl. Last year we were hit by 3 of the 4 hurricanes in our town, it was devastating for us. We both lost our jobs and our child fell ill due to no A/C or electric to run fans. We ended up not being able to pay our bills for 3 almost 4 months, so lived with out water, phone and electric even when our town was back up and running. We had to pawn and sell what we had left to regain our utilities.

Well, over a year later, thankfully we both have jobs, though between the 2 of us make a mere $200-$225 a week. We get food stamps and our daughter has full medicaid and I have partial. We shut off our electric this month because we were unable to make the payment, and the other bills may not get paid either. We cannot wash in hot water, have no soap, deodorant or any personal hygiene items because food stamps do not cover those things. We work therefore cannot get cash assistance. I struggle to keep our home and to keep fuel in our car to get back and forth to work. Just like everyone else, if it goes up to $3 a gal. We will not be able to get more than 3 gal or so which will not last long at all, not enough all week anyway. I fear that we will have to quit our jobs because of our situation.

We both have been trying to get better jobs or second jobs but being slow season and hurricane season, employers are shy to hire now and have all they need. We have attempted side jobs and private things for $5 here and $10 there, but if we get caught working with out insurance and a license the city could get us in trouble.

So my question...
WHY? We have been trying so hard, we live in a tiny row house with no real yard or property, do not go out to eat or go anywhere at all other than school and work. We do not own any luxury items other than an old computer which will be picked up and paid for in a day or two, (thanks Jim.) Why? We are good people, do not smoke or drink or anything, church going God fearing Bible reading people, who are raising our child to be respectful. It just seems that no matter how much we pray or how many others pray it doesn't get any better.

Our old washer flooded the house and neighbors' house, now we could clean clothes if we had electric. We pray constantly.

We are tired and frustrated and so scared. Everything is falling around us, we have a kid to care for, who has asthma, she can't be in the heat like this. Luckily the library is a cool escape and a good place to do her homework.

Please someone, tell me why is God not answering our prayers? I want so much to be at least partially released from this, to catch up and just break even would be Godsent for real. We do not want to be rich or go out, we just want to give our daughter a good and comfortable life. Where is God?

Thank you and God Bless, Jenn

We contacted Jennifer to ask what pulled her through the ordeal and what advice she would give survivors of Hurricane Katrina. Here is her response:

From what I hear, the conditions in the Gulf Coast are getting worse. My heart just cries for them, I can imagine to a point what they face, but I am sure it is 100 times worse then what we ever faced. I can only pray that help can come to them better than it did for some of us, and that they can recover someday.

My advice, well the only thing that kept me going, is watching my daughter sleep in the tub during the storm [because our bathroom has no windows and is in the middle of the house]. She was able to sleep during it, and I watched her sleeping like a little angel. NOW and even during the worst of the worst, when there was no clean up yet, we held on to each other.

I would tell the people that are refugees and evacuees, hold on to each other, hold on to your kids, keep them in the front of your mind. If you are, however, alone in times like that, especially with so many people together, who are strangers, are now united during this tragedy, I would suggest, talk to the person standing or sitting next to you, you may make a friend and together you can support each other.

I wished I could have saved money long before the hurricanes hit, but were never able to. I also should have been better prepared for our family, we ran out of batteries and water.

I learned to keep all ID and important papers, like house and car papers, in waterproof plastic baggies, double them up so they are thick and strong and put them in Tupperware-type containers too and keep them with you. Same with meds. that may be needed. We wrote our living wills just before the storms and would suggest everyone do that, and then pinned them on ourselves, we each had a copy of each others as well as our own, just in case. We also marked our home, front and back, stating that there were 3 people inside, after the storm we marked it that we were alive and fine. My parents also kept copies of our wills and IDs, we also had theirs. Seemed like a weird thing to do, but you never know what can happen and I wanted to make sure we were marked and taken care of in our deaths or if we were badly injured. We also told anyone we knew in and out of the area that we were staying home during the storms and if we left we would call them as we are able to. During the one storm, there was tons of damage, we wrote our names, SS# and DOB and next of kin phone numbers on our stomachs, just in case, we were very scared.

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