Nine years ago today, I got hitched.
It was two days after Hurricane Ivan, a strong Category 3 storm, made landfall near Pensacola, destroying homes, businesses and lives.
And my wedding plans. No reception at the Pensacola Yacht Club, no dancing with my college roommates, not even a champagne toast.
Just potable water, Oreos and some pickles mushrooms from the pantry at Trinity Presbyterian Church, where we did proceed with the ceremony.
In the intervening nine years, I have come see the blessing that experience was.
Because so many people showed us kindness and grace that day, I know that it was God's way of telling us that no matter how big the storm, he had his eye on us.
Like the waitress at the Carrabba's in Mobile who brought us free dessert. She worked at the Pensacola branch of the restaurant but she said that the owner of the Mobile restaurant was giving the Pensacola staff as many hours as he could so they could have some money coming in until their eatery opened again.
Any girl can have a regular old wedding night in a hotel suite. Not every girl can have their wedding night in the Mobile airport, watching the University of Florida Gators lose on TV with a handful of other Ivan survivors.
The woman who was a nurse at Pensacola Naval Hospital, who had been on the job for three days. She was finally going to see her family, who had evacuated from the area ahead of the storm.
The worried mom who had come down here to claim her college-aged daughter, a student at Pensacola Christian College. And that sweet security guard who was on the job at the airport that night.
The maid of honor and groomsman who might have been driving the only car on Interstate 65 headed south TOWARD the storm to ride out landfall with us in the house we had bought that May.
The value of having people in your life who will come into a hurricane for you with bottled water and a bag of apples is incalculable.
And when we got to our honeymoon destination, Napa, Calif., there was that waiter at the microbrewery we had dinner at twice. He waited on us both times and on the second visit, he asked us where we were from again.
A few minutes later I heard, "Oh, my GOD!" from across the restaurant, followed by a woman who seemed to materialize at our table. She now lived in Panama City, but she was from Pensacola and had seen Ivan on the news and wanted to know if it was as bad as it looked on CNN.
It wasn't the wedding I planned, but as one of the hale and hearty guests who attended despite the fact that we had no power wrote to us, "You survived the wedding, you will survive anything."
I remember turning to look at the people gathered in the church after we said our vows, before we walked back down the aisle to close the ceremony.
The first thing I saw was Anna Whibbs' hat. The lovely wife of former and much-beloved Pensacola mayor Vince Whibbs and her husband were out there among our congregation.
And they were dressed to impress. He in a suit and she in a beautiful dress, complete with hat and gloves. Two days after a hurricane. In a place with no air conditioning and no running water. Without even a bead of sweat on her face.
She was gorgeous and when she kissed me on the cheek and wished me a long and happy married life -- just like the one she had had with her husband -- it was like a cool breeze had blown into the room.
Things don't always work out as we plan. Sometimes they work out better, even if it we don't realize it until we look back.