At first I felt kind of excited because I’d never been through a hurricane before,” said Ryan Foster of Charleston, South Carolina. “Then it hit, and it got scary.”
It was September 21, 1989, and South Carolinians had known for days that Hurricane Hugo was on its way. The Fosters (Dad, Leslie; Mom, Marcia; Jason, 14; Rebecca, 12; Ryan, 11; Loren, 7; and Annika, 4) had decided to evacuate to the Moncks Corner Meetinghouse. Their home is located on James Island, a spot where storms from the ocean can hit hard. Mom told the family to pack enough clothes for two or three days. “We were fairly new to this area,” explained Sister Foster, “and we’d never been through this kind of thing before. I though it was just going to be a little inconvenience.”
Ryan, however, took it more seriously. When they arrived at Moncks Corner, the family discovered that he had packed as if they might not be going back home for a long time. As their stay at the meetinghouse extended to many days, he was the only one who had clean clothes to wear. He’d learned from experience that it’s best to be prepared.
Just the year before, the family had been living in Colorado, and Ryan had injured his shoulder in an accident at school. When the local doctor checked the shoulder, he found evidence of cancer in Ryan’s arm. Ryan and his mom drove for five and a half hours to the hospital in Denver, taking with them only enough for a stay of one or two days. They were in Denver for three and a half weeks.
During the following year, as Ryan went through chemotherapy, surgery to replace the diseased bone in his left arm with a donor bone, and chemotherapy again, the family, Church members, and community friends drew close together. The family came to understand what things are most important. “We almost lost him a couple of times,” said Mom. “He’s here because of priesthood blessings and prayer.”
“I got comfort from the whole ward,” Ryan remembered. “The Young Women in our ward put on a carnival. Afterwards they had a bake auction, and they raised nine hundred dollars for us.” His Primary teacher sent him messages each week, a special fast was held for him, and ward members tended the other Foster children when Ryan and his mom had to be away. His home teacher gave him a special blessing before every trip to Denver. Friends at school raised six hundred dollars, and the principal brought the money to Denver. So Ryan learned to take serious things seriously, and the next year, after the family had moved to South Carolina and Hugo came, all that Ryan and his family had learned during his experience in Colorado was reinforced. Prayers were offered. Priesthood blessings were given to many. Members in areas not hit by the hurricane sent items from their emergency supplies to those in areas that were hurt. Church distribution centers sent stoves and lanterns and food. And teams of members, from Scouts to grandmas, came to help with the cleanup. The goodness and unselfishness of the community at large was also seen.
In the Foster family, however, Ryan seems to have been the one who best learned the practical lesson of packing for the unexpected. Now the entire family knows the lesson well. Emergency preparedness items are more in evidence at their house these days. Each family member has thought about what he or she would take if another emergency comes along. A battery-powered radio is on the list, as are the family photos, a camp stove and lantern, books, water, and some cash. But most important, as Loren said, “When a hurricane comes, grab the family!” The Foster home was slightly damaged by Hugo, but the Foster family was greatly strengthened.