On September 16, 2004, Hurricane Ivan roared into Pensacola and changed the area’s landscape forever. Ivan brought sustained winds of over 120 miles per hour and spawned more than 100 tornadoes. The storm surge wiped houses off their foundations and destroyed the I10 Bridge over Escambia Bay. Some families and businesses in the Pensacola area were without electricity for as long as two weeks. Destruction was widespread from Baldwin County, Alabama to Santa Rosa County, Florida. At that time Trinitas Christian School was occupying a rented space off Summit Blvd that was not spared from the storm.
During the weeks after Ivan, many volunteers participated in the cleanup and restoration efforts at the school so students could return to classes and some sense of normalcy. Hundreds of man-hours were spent cleaning and drying and rebuilding. Reestablishing routine is an important step in recovering from any disaster, and getting students back in classes does just that for them. The Trinitas family was greatly blessed by the love of our neighbors after Hurricane Ivan.
Last week a group of thirteen Trinitas students traveled to Panama City with parents, teachers, and alumni to participate in Hurricane Michael relief efforts. The group spent the day working on the campus of Covenant Christian School, a classical school we have been acquainted with for some time.
Covenant sustained heavy damage to most of its classrooms and its gym. Ironically, a few old portable classrooms that now serve mostly as storage units were spared damage because they were sheltered by the gym. One of our team’s main goals was to reroute foot traffic on campus so those portables can be used as temporary classrooms while the main building is repaired. We relocated two large sections of fence and picked up truckloads of debris to open new walkways and make them safe. We also relocated a few truckloads of stored items to prepare those portable buildings to become classrooms again.
When Michael hit with its 150 mph winds, even the strongest trees were no match for it. Our chainsaw crew cut up three giant pines that the storm blew down onto the playground and surrounding area. Volunteers, with a little help from a tractor we took with us, moved all of the debris of those trees into one pile that the county should pick up soon as part of the cleanup effort.
In that same area of campus, the storm picked up a 600 square feet artificial playing surface and moved it several feet off its concrete pad. Our crew disassembled the whole playing surface and relocated it to a safe area until construction on the gym is finished and the school can reassemble the playing surface in its proper location. Trinitas students also relocated picnic tables out of that construction zone and into an area where Covenant students can access them when they return.
Trinitas volunteers were unable to work on the hardest hit parts of the Covenant campus. We could not rebuild the gym, replace the roof, or haul wet insulation and soaked ceiling tiles out of classrooms. Fortunately, Covenant has already contracted with a company to make those repairs. We could, however, deliver supplies they needed and do the small things already mentioned to restore some normalcy in preparation for the return of students who desperately need to reestablish their routine.
After Ivan hit Pensacola fourteen years ago, Trinitas was the beneficiary of so much kindness and love in the effort to prepare our school for the return of students. We know what it feels like to be overwhelmed by the destruction of a major hurricane, and we know what it feels like when others help carry our burden. Often, you find yourself best suited to minister to those who are experiencing something you have previously experienced—adversity has a way of teaching us to better love our neighbors, and that was the case here. Trinitas is thankful that God prepared us to minister to Covenant Christian School the way others ministered to us fourteen years ago. Our prayers will continue to be with Covenant as they rebuild.