At A South Florida Hurricane Shelter, A Young Boy's Birthday Wish
While many people in shelters across South Florida are glued to televisions, anxiously waiting for Hurricane Irma to pass, there have been some happy moments as these shelters turn into mini communities.
Among stacks of blankets and air mattresses in the cafeteria at the Falcon Cove Middle School shelter in Weston, Hunter Fugh squirts icing from a tube onto a cake.
"It's chocolate flavored and it has chocolate frosting on the top. We’re eating cake because it’s my birthday," said now 6-year-old Hunter.
Under a television showing bright red graphics of the potential of Hurricane Irma, he cuts thick slices of the round treat and hands them out to new friends he has made in the shelter.
It's been an exciting experience.
"I can play with my friends all day," Hunter said, before running off and making good on that statement.
One of his new friends — if only because they share a birthday and, now, a few photographs taken by interested fellow shelter-dwellers — is Priscilla Haring. Haring laughingly said she preferred not to share her age.
She said she very reluctantly came to the shelter after friends and family badgered her into either going north — which wasn’t an option — or going to a shelter.
"I was a little sad this morning," Haring said. "I was wishing I was at home with our brand new roof and our windows which are completely secure, but, it’s actually been kind of really nice being with everyone and it’s just a reminder of, you know, what’s important."
And while there has been a certain kind of new community that’s formed with almost a thousand people shoved together in a middle school — strangers playing card games and sharing food — for 6-year-old Hunter, it seemed like coming here to spend his birthday was going to be a let down.
"He said mommy, so I don’t have the birthday cake and nobody to celebrate my birthday?" recounted Heather Fugh, Hunter's Mom.
Turns out birthday cakes were not in the most high-demand for pre-Irma prep, so she was able to pick up a non-refrigerated cake to bring.
And while Hunter blew out an imaginary flame on his candle — there are no fires allowed in the shelter — he was asked to make a wish.
"It’s so special, this birthday. Your friend Irma [wants] to come to celebrate, but please, please pray that your friend Irma keeps away from us."
She says it looks like with the storm moving farther west, the birthday wish may have worked.