Just a week ago, I dreaded Google searching for the names of those who died in the South Carolina flood. As of now, the death toll is at 19 just in my home state. And I'm grateful my friends and family our safe.
But now, the worst part about the flooding is that I can't teleport myself home right now.
Or maybe that the amount of water dumped on my beloved state (11 trillion gallons in five days) could have ended the drought in California.
Whenever I don't know what to do, when my anxiety, depression and obsessive worry get to me, my answer is to write. Usually alternating between that, deep breathing and prayer. At first, I couldn't even think of the right words.
So each time I heard about another fatality, I cringed and checked the list. Just to be sure. Columbia's always been a "little big town," so there was a good possibility that I or someone I know has been affected.
Recently, I rejoiced that my family no longer had to boil water after a week under the advisory. A recent surgery for a loved one (and a wound that required fresh water) made bathing a bit difficult.
But that was just one small inconvenience.
It is still eerie to watch my city on television and recognize places I've eaten, streets I've driven on countless times, neighborhoods I'm familiar with -- all being washed away. Social media has been a godsend, as I've been able to check on the Facebook pages of friends and businesses to see how they fared.
Many people I know had to evacuate, only to return to flood-ravaged homes and no flood insurance. A bright glimmer is seeing people organize in local Facebook groups on how to volunteer and send donations. Many still don't have clean water and many roads and bridges are still being repaired.
Then the damage photos from other areas I love are popping up: Myrtle Beach, Charleston, parts of the Upstate and North Carolina. All of them reeling from this disaster of epic proportions.
I want to reach out and hug every single person who was affected. I want to drive my car up there right now and do something...anything.
But for now, time constraints keep me from coming home until later in the year. At least then I can come home to fresh water and repaired roads.
For now, all I can do is watch, spread news and information when I can, check on my parents periodically and make what feels like empty attempts to comfort others on social media.
I've never been one of those people who say, "I didn't think it could happen here." We've faced devastating weather in the midlands of South Carolina thanks to being on the coast and getting pummeled by hurricanes and other tropical weather.
But this is different. The damage is so widespread, so consuming. Seeing the brownish-white water filling up in front of one of my favorite restaurants...I suppose I should be thankful this wasn't a tornado outbreak like the one that ravaged my new home state of Alabama suffered in 2011. There could simply be empty lots there instead of flooded businesses.
So, for now, I will focus on assistance and gratitude. My family and close friends are safe and dry and didn't sustain much damage, even when surrounded by water-swollen roads.
I will continue to pray and keep watch over those who have been hit. I've already seen acquaintances and high school classmates who have sent video and pictures of their damaged homes and neighborhoods, the roads crumbled as though it had taken a direct hit from Thor's hammer.
One day soon I'll return to my beloved city and do whatever I can to help repair and rebuild. But for now, my heart is under reconstruction.
There are many ways you can help. The Red Cross is just one organization combing through debris and comforting victims. If you'd like to volunteer or donate on a specific, local level, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I can put you in direct contact with a Facebook group, organization or individual in need of your items or skills.