Sabrina Arena Ferrisi has been working in the field of Catholic journalism for 17 years. Beginning in the year 2000, she worked as a journalist covering the Holy See in Rome for various American Catholic newspapers, including Our Sunday Visitor, the National Catholic Register and the Catholic World Report. She covered the last four years of Pope John Paul II’s papacy. Beginning in 2000, she also had her own radio show in Italian for Radio Maria commenting on Vatican news for three years. She was the senior staff writer for Legatus Magazine for 14 years and writes freelance for the National Catholic Register and Aleteia. She lives in New York with her husband and five children.
When Visar Demi, a native Albanian, heard about Hurricane Irma, he knew he was going to ride out the storm in Miami.
Demi had been posted to Costa Rica for work by his multinational shipping company for a two-year assignment and was already living in the Central American nation for two months.
But news of the hurricane brought him back to Miami on Monday.
“My parents and sister live in Miami. I did not think twice about coming back,” he said. “Actually, I wish I had arrived earlier.”
His decision to return to Miami – while millions are evacuating – was based on several factors.
“First, my father who is 75 has a medical condition and cannot really travel. But also, these things depend on people’s culture. We are used to hardship in Albania and it is difficult for us to conceive of leaving our house,” he said.
Demi lived through a Category 4 hurricane in 2004 when it hit Freeport, Bahamas. He knows what to expect.
“I told my parents to expect terrible noise for hours and perhaps banging on the walls of the house as loose objects may be flying in the wind.”
Demi’s family lives in Brickell, an area in downtown Miami, in a two-story house. About 50 percent of his neighbors have evacuated.
“There is a supposed to be storm surge here of between 4 and 12 feet,” he said.
Demi has been checking an app on his phone all day which tells you what height above sea level your location is. His house is supposed to be 20 feet above sea level, so he hopes that his family will be safe. However, he is grateful for their second floor.
“Our house has hurricane impact windows and hurricane shutters on the front and back. I think we will be fine,” he said.
Meanwhile, his mother and sister are cooking up a storm.
“They are still cooking, even as we speak. We can live for weeks on the food and water we have. We don’t have a generator – but we do have gas tanks to cook by BBQ afterward. No one will die from hunger in my house, that is for sure!”
Though some people are worried about living in Miami’s heat afterward, without electricity and air conditioning, Demi shrugs it off. After growing up in Albania, this is nothing. He saw people panicking at stores when bottled water ran out.
“It’s funny. Why were they panicking? We have tap water in Miami. It’s not as if we can’t drink it. We bought seven buckets and have filled up every bottle in the house.”
There are long lines at Home Depot for sand bags, with people panicking and buying just about anything they can find. All the plywood is gone.
When asked if he is apprehensive, Demi says he feels very calm.
“No, we aren’t scared. You can be in a dangerous situation anywhere. You can never have perfect control in life. You have to leave a certain amount of your life up to faith.”
All they can do is prepare as much as possible and wait.
One thing that Demi is grateful for is how organized the government has been in Miami in terms of giving out information and making sure that everyone has gasoline. He feels like everyone has had to enough time to prepare.
“In a way, these events have really brought people together. All my neighbors who decided to stay are helping each other out. People keep asking each other if they need help.”