Twenty five years ago, I was in Miami. Hurricane Andrew was approaching. I was excited, because I loved storms. I stayed out on our front porch as the storm made an appearance. The rain was salt water. The lightning flashes looked aqua. I think I was actually watching transformers blowing instead of seeing lightning.
I stayed outside as long as I could. The winds picked up, and my mom made me come inside. Inside the house were me, my parents, my sister, her husband & three kids, my brother, his wife and their four kids. The kids slept through everything.
I couldn’t sleep. The air pressure made my ears pop. There were things hitting the house. Water came pouring through the AC vent in my bedroom. (We discovered in the morning that a corner of the roof came off) Even though our front door was sort of protected, water seeped underneath.
The worst thing was the wind. It howled for hours. It seemed like it was never going to end. Finally, daylight came. The winds stopped. People ventured out of their houses. We were in disbelief. My neighborhood was hit hard, but it wasn’t completely destroyed. Our houses were built sturdy.
But just a few blocks away were newer houses. The only thing remaining of one house’s second floor was the wall frame hanging down. Those houses didn’t make it.
We went around our neighborhood. I saw a boat completely parallel up against a house. I saw huge trees completely toppled over. The bakery at the local strip mall had put up masking tape on the windows. The glass was completely gone, but the masking tape strips were still dangling.
The roof had collapsed on the Publix grocery store. The windows were broken on the liquor store, and people were reaching in for what they could grab. It was chaos.
The area I grew up in was devastated. So many things were gone. In the following days, I saw even worse than my neighborhood. My friend, Tracy, picked me up. We went to the trailer park where she used to live. Maybe 3 out of 50 homes were still standing. We went to her house. I remember her obsessing about the mold on her walls, but her house was so damaged, that it wasn’t really livable.
I went to Homestead Air Force Base with my sister, and her husband. The base was completely destroyed. The duplex she lived in was missing the roof on the east facing side. That side was empty except for the heaviest furniture. Her side was soaked because all the windows had been blown out.
I lost the job I had only had for a few weeks. I never even got my check from there. I went to the restaurant, and it was trashed.
My family was lucky. We didn’t have any running water for a few days, but it came back on. The our minister’s son-in-law was the vice president of a company, and they loaned out some of the generators they had. My parents got one because of how many people we had in the house. (My brother and his family went back home to Maryland) So we had electricity to run the fridge & some other things.
We didn’t run out of food. The Red Cross came through our neighborhood, and gave us military MRE meals. We got donations that were sent to our church.
I remember the heat. It was so hard to sleep. I tried sleeping on the back deck, but got covered in dew. I tried sleeping on our front porch, but had one of the most surreal experiences of my life.
Our porch had a three-foot high concrete wall, so it was blocked from the street. I felt safe enough there. I was sleeping, and something woke me up. I was afraid it might be looters, so I peeked over the wall. I saw a squadron of armed national guardsmen walking down my street. It was like something out of the Twilight Zone. For the first time, I was really afraid.
I stayed for about a month after the storm. I got in touch with the restaurant that I had worked at in Delaware, and the manager said I could have my job back. I thought that I had a roommate lined up too, but that didn’t work out. I left Miami. I had no idea that I wouldn’t make it back there again.
Hurricane Andrew changed my life. I didn’t lose anything physical. My car had been in the garage (it was only one small enough to fit in it) I lost my job, but that was it. I lost my home in the emotional sense. My parents moved from Miami. My family scattered all over.
It was a traumatic event in my life. I still can’t handle the sound of wind howling. Storms scare me. I get frustrated when people take storm warnings too lightly.
It did teach to me to appreciate some things more. I will never take showers for granted again. The first few days after the storm, we didn’t have water. When it rained, I would put on my bathing suit, and stand under the corner downspout to wash my hair.
Hurricane Andrew changed so many things. That was the last time I saw my sister, Sue. Her husband did drugs again, and she ended up losing her kids. My parents moved to Arkansas.
I didn’t lose things, I just lost my sense of peace. I lost my hometown. My life has felt rootless ever since. I have lived in my current home for 19 years, but it still doesn’t feel like home sometimes. I lost my sense of family, and belonging.
I am a survivor. I survived the storm. I survived the aftermath. I moved on. I will never forget the storm, it left scars on my psyche. But I did survive. I am still here. I survived a category 5 hurricane. Hurricane Andrew was the before/after event in my life. It was the dividing line for me. But I came out stronger, and I just have to remember that.