Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Recon vs. Hurricane Andrew

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Hey people. sorry for the post drought, I've been dumb busy. My classes are like having a clan of Mountain Gorillas living on my back. And I've got more homework than Jane Goodall has monkey stories. The point is, I've been very distracted. Not to mention I just got my computer back running after being crippled by a series of evil trojan viruses. Good thing I'm a big fat nerd, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to fix said problems, and therefore wouldn't be writing now. But before I continue with my usual 3 sentence, mono-syllabic posts, I thought I'd share a story. Warning: for those of you allergic to reading, this post is word heavy!

Over the last day or two I've been totally absorbed in news coverage of the recent Hurricane. I feel so sorry for those affected by it. I can't help but empathize. I see the footage of destruction and remember my own encounter back in 1992 with a grouchy fellow named Andrew.

I used to live in Miami as a kid, and back in 92 I returned to visit an old friend for a few weeks. We went to the Keys for a fishing trip, but had to cut it short as Hurricane Andrew was fast approaching Miami. So we packed up, and returned. Upon arriving in the city, people were boarding up and preparing for the storm. We did the same, and waited for Andrew to hit.

A few hours before Andrew hit, my friend and I took a walk around the city. I can tell you that the saying "Calm before the storm" is something very very real. It was so quiet, not a sound could be heard anywhere. Take in mind that Miami is like a rainforest with highways. So when you can't here any of the millions of insects, lizards, or birds, the effect is rather eerie.

I remember falling asleep and waking up to a defeaning sound. It was the rain. I remember how unbelievably loud it was..it sounded like millions of BB guns shooting the roof simultaneously. And the wind was so powerful you could almost feel the structure of the house breathing. I've never felt anything like it. It was as if the foundation were buckling and could be blown away at any moment.

My friends parents were frantic, trying to make sure the boards on the windows weren't torn off in the 160 mph winds. We heard a crash outside, which we later found out was the top of an outdoor brick grill chimney that blew off and landed on their truck. As the storm increased in intensity, I was put in a room and told to sit under the desk for safety reasons. I think they were afraid of me being hurt and being liable for it. But I had no problem obliging. I was scared shitless.

So there I am sitting under this desk, listening to these terrifying noises in the darkness. All I hear is glass breaking, howling wind, and sounds of destruction coming from everywhere. I was holding on to one of my friends Dobermans, who were put in the room with me and were understandably freaking out. And then the house began to flood.

Within an hour, the water was 2 feet high throughout the whole house. I remember seeing my guitar float by me, thinking this shit was pretty crazy. But my stuff was the last thing on my mind. At this point, I was actually starting to get scared for my life.

Until then, I'd never been witness to nature's power. I'd never had my life in danger from any kind of disaster, and I found myself full of respect for nature in ways I'd never experienced. I then began praying to God out of sheer fear. Not "Dear God, give me a PSP for Christmas" type praying, this shit was real. I really thought I was going to die.

The rest of the storm is a blur. I think I blocked it out. I spent the majority of it sitting half submerged in rain water with my eyes closed, hoping it would end soon. The next thing I remember is going outside and seeing the aftermath.

The first thing I realized was that all vertical structures had disappeared. We take for granted when we look out the window that there are trees, telephone poles, power lines, lightposts, etc. When they are all gone, you really notice it. The house across the street was almost totally destroyed. Down the whole block, every third house or so was totaled. Most were ok, but the amount of destruction was surprising.

The house I was in was pretty badly damaged. The garage was collapsed, some of the roof was ripped off, and the whole house was flooded. (Later on, the house was condemend and and the family was forced to live in a trailer for a year while they attempted to rebuild.)

I stayed in Miami for another week. The 100 degree heat and lack of running water were a constant problem, as was looting. People would sit in their yards at night, machete in hand watching out for looters driving by looking for materials they could take and sell.

Every day was strange and bizzare. The Army was everywhere, directing traffic and making sure that noone got out of control. There weren't alot of problems. Seeing machine guns is a good deterrent to civil unrest.

I spent my days helping rebuild their roof, driving to food shelters, and looking for power generators, which were in extreme shortage in the city. Everyone wanted one, and noone had one. We heard that a shipment came in at a Home Depot, and we drove the family's half-broken truck there in hopes of getting one.

The scene there was pandemonium. a few hundred generators arrived, and the crowd waiting was close to a thousand. My friend and I got our hands on one, and had to literally fight for it. I got elbowed in the face, and the next thing I know me and my friend are scrapping with 2 old guys for no reason other than the fact that they wanted what we wanted. It was so strange to fight out of need. These guys weren't angry at us, they just wanted that generator so much they were willing to fight us for it. But we managed to win, and went home with fat lips and a brand new power generator.

Eventually I flew home to New York, grateful to be leaving. I felt bad for my friends who couldn't leave, and all the people who's lives had been so dramatically altered overnight. When I got home, my Mom gave me a glass of coke with ice and I've never had something so good in my life. I sat on the couch, basking in the air conditioning drinking a cold soda, and thought about my life. We have so much comfort living in the western world, and we take it for granted until it's taken away from us. I sympathize with those people affected by Katrina, and I just hope things get better before they gets any worse...

So that's my story. Hope you liked it.
Have any of you been in a natural disaster?

Now back to the monkeys...

(Photo via Gorilla Mask.
Watch Farley as "El Nino" here!)

UPDATE: Sites For Hurricane Katrina Donations:

Red Cross
Salvation Army

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