They say it enough that you believe them despite the 6-inch scar that's been on his forehead for two weeks and doesn't look like it's going away anytime soon.
Yes, they are fortunate, even though their home is gone and even though they had to endure several days cut off from the rest of the world, their communication reduced to an occasional message informing family and friends that "we are OK," with the longitude and latitude of the point of transmission.
They are fortunate because they survived a direct hit -- literally -- from Hurricane Dorian in the
"Our thoughts and our hearts are still back there with the people who lost so much, and the friends who helped us," Brian says. "We pray for them, and we hope other people are praying for them, too."
The death toll in the
Cindy adds: "When we talk about what we went through, we never want to sound like, 'Oh, look at us, we're heroes because we survived.' We're just lucky, and we're still thinking about the people who weren't as lucky."
Living the dream
The Lockwoods always loved the water and fell in love with the
In a neighborhood called Leisure Lee Waterways -- 20 residences spread out among 100 lots of land -- they lived among friends they had made on vacations there.
Brian, a 54-year-old
In late August, the Lockwoods and their neighbors began following news reports about the tropical storm that was gathering steam in the
"We were keeping our eyes on it," Brian says, "but there was also this sense that maybe it could turn. Maybe this, maybe that, all those 'maybe' things. It could come right over you or it could miss you."
No one was panicking, and even when evacuations were recommended, the Lockwoods were among those who chose to stay and ride out what was being described as a Category 3 storm. Their last opportunity to leave was
"Unfortunately we decided to stay then, like a lot of people," Brian says. "I can say I regret it. If we had it to do over, we would have done differently. But in the end, it is what it is."
The storm hit around
The Lockwoods grabbed their cats, Roxie and Skeeter, and whatever belongings they prioritized, and they dashed through the winds and rain to the
"We were instantly standing in a cesspool of water, supplies, materials and everything else," Brian says.
They clambered up to the next floor and sat on the floor in fear, screaming to be heard above the storm.
That's the last thing he remembers for a while.
One of those storm-proof windows gave way, flew 20 feet across the room and found a landing space on his head, knocking him unconscious. Cindy saw the blood pouring from a beneath a gaping flap of skin and feared her husband of 20 years was dead.
"I began praying fervently," she says. "I began praying, 'Please let him hold on.' The noise was incredible."
She grabbed a rag and began applying pressure to his wound, frantically trying to staunch the bleeding. She began shaking him, calling his name. After a few moments, his eyes opened and he asked what had happened. "Am I bleeding?" he repeated over and over, confused.
They clung to each other through the eye of the storm, keeping pressure on his head wound. When the storm outside had calmed enough, they pulled the cats from where they'd been stowed and the Lockwoods went back downstairs, to the garage. They spent a sleepless night in the air-conditioned comfort of their neighbor's concrete-encased truck.
They emerged after sunrise to find that the worst of the storm had passed, but that most of their neighborhood was leveled. They made their way through the rubble, Brian in his blood-soaked makeshift bandage. Their neighbors had all survived, but their homes were gone.
"It looked like one of those end-of-the-world movies," Brian says.
Everyone gathered at the one home that was mostly habitable. Their neighbor Dominique Pilate -- known as "Domino" -- gave Brian's head wound a good cleaning. He is a veterinarian, not a physician, but he got the job done.
Together they had stockpiled about two weeks worth of food and water, and for two days they ate fresh seafood cooked with propane. There was no cell coverage, of course. The only communication was a handheld satellite device the Lockwoods used to send that same message -- "We're OK," with the longitude and latitude -- to a handful of people back home in the
Those people, including Brian's two brothers, would receive the "pings" on their own devices and spread the word.
"Thank God for those 'pings' every night," says Brian's mother, Carol. "I don't know what I would have done without them."
On the third day after the storm they managed to get the truck out of the
Back at Leisure Lee, the group stayed together for protection against the prowling bands of looters who were making off with anything they could carry.
In less than two hours, they had the Lockwoods and their cats aboard Mark's 4-seat Cirrus SR 22 headed for the
They spent the weekend in
Last Monday, Cindy rented a van and the Lockwoods pointed it toward
For now they are resting at
They will return home to the
Will they rebuild their home? Most likely.
"The structure still there," Brian says. "There's 6 feet of water downstairs, and upstairs parts of the roof and walls are off."
Cindy adds, "There's nothing on the island to rebuild with right now."
Based on reports from neighbors, the Lockwoods have been picked clean by looters.
"I hate hearing that," Brian says. "I understand people stealing food and water because their families have to eat. But stealing other stuff just because you can? I detest that."
But in the next moment, the Lockwoods look at each other, and it's clear that their thoughts aren't on what they lost, but on what they still have.
"But we're alive," Cindy says.
"We're alive," Brian repeats.
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