Before I continue with my Hurricane Andrew story, I just want to send my best wishes to residents on the East Coast. You have no idea how much you are in my thoughts these past days, and for the next few days too. Irene, you are not on my Xmas list this year!
And one personal side note. During Andrew, one meteorologist, Bryan Norcross, was on the air forever (I exaggerate only a little). While watching the Weather Channel today to get caught up on Irene, who did I see? I heard him first (Bryan Norcross) and recognised his voice immediately, even after 19 years. I am sure I’m not the only one who is forever in his debt for his supportive coverage during Andrew; and all the years since then, including today.
So, we left off with $$ from the insurance company, but little else. And where to spend the night (and future days) while we plan what to do next. I was extremely fortunate to have such caring friends, who tracked me down and offered to house us for a few days. Cell phones were not common back in 1992, so how they tracked me down was quite a chore. So we left the dogs overnight in the house (guard dogs, ya know), feed them, and took off to Ft. Lauderdale where friends lived.
There were discussions that evening between husband and me. Basically, it was the perfect opportunity to leave Florida. The house and most of our stuff was gone. We had $$ to start again. And I had always said that I wanted to raise our daughter in a lesser populated area, one with four seasons, not just hot, hotter, hottest, and humid. So we decided to move to the Pacific Northwest, where I was originally from. Whew, decision made and now the planning.
I had worked in the past with this couple, Karen and Frank. They made phone calls to friends and where they worked, and we got a truck and packing boxes. The next morning, we all drove to Homestead and started packing what we could. Living room, dining room, kitchen stuff (because most of that was in cupboards and thus not damaged), a few clothes that were undamaged (mold has already damaged most of my clothes), and anything else that we could find, were packed and hauled off. The weather was very hot and since there was no running water, we didn’t stay very long; just long enough to pack the big stuff and get out.
The next day, husband and I went back to Homestead and looked for more stuff that could be saved. At one point I had to use a crowbar to break into a dresser. The wood had swollen so much that I could not access the treasures in the drawer. I was able to save all but one of my Northwest Coast Indian art collection; I lost a batik piece that was wet and moldy.
I had some old family memories, such as a family bible from Czechoslovakia, that was too damaged to save. I also lost years of family photos; growing up, college, all sorts of visual memories of great experiences. To this day I miss them, such as my photos of the Teton Dam collapse and Mt. St. Helens. Since I had packed the baby’s clothes when we evacuated Homestead, she only lost her room furnishings. I was a huge Tyco fan and most of the toys were the indestructible plastic that just needed cleaning.
One of the most interesting saves was a ceramic pig full of pennies. This had been stored in an outdoor shed (sometimes called a Florida basement). After Andrew we could not find the shed anywhere in the neighborhood. However, the pig was sitting upright in the back yard without a scratch. The swing set–which had the legs set in concrete–was twisted into pieces. But the legs were solid. My bicycle, which had been stored in the shed, was literally wrapped around one of the swing set legs. And by far the best save was a wedding picture. This was found about a mile away by someone who recognized my sister-in-law (she was in the photo). They gave the picture to her, and she gave it to me. Slightly damaged, but still a remarkable find.
We ended up at the bank in Homestead and closed accounts, grabbed valuables from the safe deposit box, said goodby to our neighbors, and left Homestead for good.
I gave a two-week notice at my work place. We contacted a moving company who came to Karen and Frank’s house and carefully packed everything we were able to save. I had gone through and pulled out stuff we would need when we got to Spokane, such as the baby’s high chair, car seat, stroller, some toys, and dog carriers. Everything else was packed and put in storage until we actually ended up someplace. The unnerving part was we had no idea how long it would be before we could would be in a house again.
Husband also packed up the big dog (Doberman Pinscher), a bunch of baby stuff, and drove to the Pacific Northwest. We both had family in Spokane. He was supposed to find a house to rent, but did not accomplish that task (I was kind of upset about that one). I arranged for the two little dogs (Miniature Pinschers) to fly to Spokane. Then all dogs were placed in a long-term kennel until we got settled.
In the mean time, I was running errands while still working. Getting bank accounts, mortgage, and other things settled. Took car in for service as we were going to drive across the country. I was actually too busy to miss the baby; besides I knew she was in good hands with her aunt and uncle.
Because I still was officially working, I was able to get my husband a stand-by ticket to fly back to Florida. He got home late one night, and we left the next day to get the baby, journey across the country, and start again. Things were already slightly strained between me and husband. Leaving Florida, I even mentioned that now would be the perfect time to get a divorce because we had nothing and thus it would be easier (financially) to split. But we decided to try to work things out. Andrew had placed a great deal of stress on everyone!
So that’s almost the end of the story. We drove across country for two weeks and ended up in Spokane. Stayed with my brother for 2-3 months until we found a house. Neither one of us had a job yet, so we could only get a house that we could pay cash for. We both found jobs; I have been at the same job for over 18 years. Husband and I separated after 18 months and were later divorced. Hard to be single parent! But I am happy to be in the Pacific Northwest, out of hurricane reach, and my daughter knows what snow is!
After all is said and done, there are still strong memories. I really miss the old photos and other memorabilia that was lost. I do not like the sound of helicopters (they were constantly overhead in the days after Andrew). The smell of mold tends to send a wave of anxiety through my body. And the worst is that all hurricanes since then seem to bring back Andrew memories. Thank you and good night, Irene.