This is just my story of how I became aware of how fragile civility really is and how much we depend on others in our daily lives. I was living in Charleston SC in 1989, a 28-year-old single mother of two small children. My husband had left the family after meeting a woman and falling in love with her at work. So there I was living in an apartment, working a full time job, with two small children under the age of five, with an impending hurricane. Husband and his woman had moved to another city five hours' drive away and we didn't see him very much.
Of course the news broadcast that the storm was coming several days in advance but they weren't sure exactly where it would come ashore. If I remember correctly, only within the last 24 hours did we find out for sure it was going to be Charleston. Businesses started closing down and preparations made. I was going to wait it out with the kids at our apartment, a 2-story townhouse about 1/4 mile off a waterway, but then started to get panicky. Twelve hours before the hurricane was to land I packed up the kids in our old car and we headed inland towards Columbia, SC. Both the kids and I had the flu, and I sat in a traffic jam with two small children, all of us ill, for 8 hours trying to go 100 miles. It was a nightmare of fearing running out of gas or something happening to our 12-year-old car.
But we made it, and I managed to get the last room they had (I had no computer back in those days nor were there computer reservations if I recall) for the princely sum of $89, which bought us a room right by the vending machines and stairwell with a non-functioning toilet. I quickly got us squared away, thankfully we had enough notice so I was prepared with an ice chest of food and had brought my first aid kit. We wrapped up in blankets and told stories, pretending it was a fun time, until late that night and then went to bed.
Woke up the next morning, no power, looked out the window, everything was in shambles. Storm came ashore at Charleston but as it moved inland it broke up into multiple tornadoes, one of which came close enough to pull the roof off a motel next to ours. Very scary stuff, but we slept through it all, probably because of the medication we'd taken for the flu. Car was okay, though, no tree on top of it. We loaded up and got on the road, and it took another 8 hours or so to get home. No gasoline was to be had, all pumps were closed. Trees were across the interstate so I had to use my atlas to find alternate smaller routes back. Made it home with about 1/8 tank to spare. House was fine! We should have stayed, but when you live that close to the coast you just don't know.
We were without power for 29 days straight - it was the most frightening thing I've ever lived through. Martial law was imposed, National Guard came in to keep order in the city. My place of business had 8 feet of water from the storm surge, and my children's daycare was completely ruined and had to be shut down. It took me one week to be able to return to work and I had to find new daycare arrangements for the children; luckily, my sister's church came through for us.
During this time, I saw things I couldn't believe, like two men fighting each other over the last $10 bag of ice at a gas station. Waiting in line 5 hours to get to the pump, cash only, with gas being $5 a gallon (this was back in 1989). Hearing the sounds of the National Guard loudspeaker at night, living with candles and lanterns for almost a month. No power - SC in September can be brutal. Trying to stay calm for my children alone in the house at night.
Anyway, from then on I realized that we are all totally dependent on King Electricity and also just a thin veneer of civility exists when things like this happen. It made me fearful for myself and my children, and I don't like living in fear. After that experience, I started getting interested in ways to train myself to be more self sufficient and took an interest in self-defense.