Archive for the ‘wtvj’ Category

Hurricane Andrew: the small stuff
August 22, 2007

It is the small things that seem to stick with you over the years. The big important stuff sometimes goes away but it is those little incidents that seem “just like yesterday” when you relive major events in your life, especially a catastrophe like Hurricane Andrew.

Here are a few memories that have lingered over the years, most of them not really pretty, nor fun at the time, or now for that matter:

Watching looters push aside TV cameras, cops and the armed soldiers from the U.S. Army and continue to pillage retail outlets and malls in South Dade.

The drunken security guard pointing a large pistol in my face because he “didn’t like no media.”

Realizing that while writing and reporting about the 160-thousand homeless South Florida residents that I was reporting about myself.

I still remember my first warm shower.

After seeing my trashed apartment and starting to sort out the mess realizing for the first time in my life I really had no control over what was next.

Being offered ham and eggs by a family who was cooking breakfast under a tarp hung off a tree.

Not ever getting enough sleep, or being able to go to sleep.

I remember the taste of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, on white bread, that a Salvation Army worker handed me.

We were the first news crew on to Homestead Air Force base. Fighter pilots road out the storm in a hanger. During an interview one of the pilots told me, “I thought I was going to die.” I thought, “God, there is not a fighter pilot in the world that thinks he is gunna die!”

Watching the U.S. Army arrive and grab control of the rescue, recovery, and relief effort that had been botched by so many others.

The red tape of the Red Cross in contrast to the simple “what do you need philosophy” of the Salvation Army and the many religious groups that brought aid to South Florida.

Living in the television station for two weeks, living in a cramped mobile home at Harris Field in Homestead.

Being practically in tears when our News Director personally delivered Cuban Sandwiches to those of us in the field.

Being totally frustrated in not being able to solve people’s problems. Andrew was like a giant wave that you could never get out of.

Being hungry, thirsty, and probably a little nutty for way too long.

Watching public officials who failed, other who stepped up an made a sincere effort and made a difference.

Learning much about myself and how material things began to matter less and friendships and relationships became far more important.

Remembering the first night in the Overtown apartment I was able to rent, laying on the floor and sleeping for 12 hours. There was no water, no electricity but it was mine.

The mosquito’s ate us alive and being so glad the mosquito spray DC-3’s doused us daily with insecticide which killed the skeeters but maybe wasn’t so good for us.

Standing in line for a hot dinner at an Army field kitchen.

Standing in line to use the only working pay phone east of US-1 and Southwest 312th street.

It was so hot and then it rained forever right after Andrew.

The smell of wet drywall.

The smell of decaying foliage.

The smell of things dead.

I have to say, Andrew was absolutely frightening. Not only the storm, but the aftermath, the feeling of helplessness, was overwhelming… and that was just some of the “small stuff.”