Of all the alumni who responded to our request for stories, Class of 2003 graduate Kira Galbraith was the most seriously affected by the hurricane.
Galbraith lost most of her possessions and had to evacuate her flooding home during the storm.
Galbraith, her boyfriend, and her father live just a mile and a half from the gulf coast in Naples, Florida. They were about 30 minutes south of the eye of Hurricane Ian and experienced significant flooding due to the storm surge.
As Ian made landfall in Naples with winds of nearly 150 mph, over two million people lost power, and the storm surge sent floods of water straight toward Galbraith and her family.
“Our home was filled with water and had a resting level of four and a half to five feet. Along with the water in our apartment, the sewage system failed, so sewage waste went through our home,” said Galbraith (Click the video attached to this story to see the damage to Galbraith’s apartment).
She and her family lost almost all of their belongings except for a few items on the top shelf in each bedroom closet and two shelves in her hall closet.
“We were in our home when the hurricane hit. Standing in my living room as water filled my home, saving our pets and my dad was the priority. My boyfriend and I worked together and did just that,” said Galbraith.
Fortunately, Galbraith’s car was parked on higher grounds about a quarter of a mile away from their home. Her boyfriend Matt took the first load of cats to their vehicle and flagged down help to get Galbraith and her father to safety.
Galbraith will be forever grateful for the generosity of strangers.
“As Dad, myself, and our last cat exited the house, we were in waist-deep water. Everything happened so fast. Thankfully, as we got to the end of the sidewalk, the two men that selflessly decided to help us put my father [on Matt’s back], and Matt held him on there, guiding him to the truck,” said Galbraith.
Galbraith and her boyfriend are caretakers for Galbraith’s father, who is an amputee. While trying to escape the flooding of their house, her father had to hop with his walker while Galbraith pushed his wheelchair through the water with one hand, while holding her cat in a pet carrier above her head with her other hand.
The family and their cats were all able to make it to their vehicle safely and drive as far east as they could. They ended up at a hotel in Fort Lauderdale on the east coast of Florida near relatives for two weeks.
“Beyond the flooding and rain, we experienced extreme winds ranging from 40 to 80 mph; we felt these winds as they pushed our car as we drove away. There were many trees and power
lines down that we saw as we traveled east,” said Galbraith.
Galbraith is already putting the pieces of her life back together, but it will be a while before things will be back to normal in Naples.
“The stress of finding a new place to live was the most significant factor that impacted us. Most available apartments or houses for rent either don’t accept pets or have a pet limit,” said Galbraith.
Unwilling to leave her pets or rehome them to find a place to live, Galbraith struggled to find a new home. She stated how she and her family will slowly start to gain more belongings and rebuild their home. The thing Galbraith is most thankful for is that she and her family are alive and safe.
Growing up in central Pennsylvania, hurricanes were not something for which she was prepared, but Galbraith feels like her upbringing and her study of psychology give her an advantage in this situation.
To everyone who has helped us, we could never express our gratitude for them for what they have done for us. Several people have gone above and beyond to aid us in our post-hurricane journey; they are true blessings. We are thankful for everyone who reached out with concern, advice, and prayers. Staying positive is critical; being empowered and uplifted has brought tremendous value to us
— Kira Galbraith
“We feel that our childhoods prepared us for this. We are fighters full of reliance. Learning emotional intelligence and consciousness levels was a big help during this emergency. My learning journey of studying our brains, emotions, and behaviors and the knowledge gained from my psychology courses has significantly helped with my mental health status,” said Galbraith. “At the moment, Matt and I agreed that we felt calm as if the chaos went silent while completing each step we needed to, as we went into hyperfocus.”
Galbraith currently feels fine but that doesn’t mean that she won’t have triggers in the future relating to her experience with the hurricane.
The most emotional point that Galbraith faces when recalling her experience with Hurricane Ian is when she stood soaking wet in Target while getting essentials and dry sets of clothes.
“FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) has helped us, but more importantly, every person we knew or didn’t know reached out with support that played a significant role in relief. We had family, friends, and strangers donate funds. Our employer, Darden Restaurants, aided us with our employee emergency disaster program” said Galbraith.
Galbraith recently moved into a new apartment and because of the help that they received, they were able to get beds and fill their fridge with food.
It will be a long journey for Galbraith and her family to get back to where they were, but the support of all the great people in their lives is helping them move forward in rebuilding their lives.
“To everyone who has helped us, we could never fully express our gratitude for them for what they have done for us. Several people have gone above and beyond to aid us in our post-hurricane journey; they are true blessings,” said Galbraith. “We are thankful for everyone who reached out with concern, advice, and prayers. Staying positive is critical; being empowered and uplifted has brought tremendous value to us.”