South Florida will soon be marking the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew, the last Category 5 hurricane to strike the United States. The storm hit South Miami-Dade county on August 24, 1992. It left a path of devastation.
I remember that the National Hurricane Center was issuing warnings when my husband’s friend called and urged us to ride out the storm with him. He lived in a southwest Miami area called the Falls. His house seemed so safe. We were in a house in Miami Beach, only a few blocks from the Atlantic Ocean and in an evacuation area. A storm surge was feared.
Our family decided to evacuate elsewhere. Our friend’s roof was blown off of his house during the terrible storm. Our house remained intact.
Andrew plowed into Florida with 165 mph winds. It spawned many tornadoes in its wake. Later, my husband and I would be part of a convoy bringing supplies to a shul in one of the hardest hit areas. We rode on the highway, and as far as the eye could see there were houses without roofs or windows. There were no utility poles or trees. There was no telephone or electric service. It looked like a scene from a nuclear disaster.
People had painted desperate pleas to their insurance companies on the walls. “HELP US!” the pleas read. Many wrote out their policy numbers. Some had other messages. A popular post was, “You Loot – We Shoot.”
Many of the people who were in the Southwest/Homestead area had taken the traditional hurricane precautions. They had bottles of water, canned food and batteries for their radios, but the aftermath of the disaster went on for months and in some cases longer. Water and food soon ran out and batteries went dead.
We make plans. We make contingency plans. We are reminded of the Yiddish adage, “Man plans and G-d laughs.” Bubby was right!
There are issues and problems. There are matters and concerns that are totally out of our hands. We think we are able to determine our fate. In reality, the only thing we determine is how we will respond to what life dishes out.
Life is precarious. It is fragile. It is a constant test. There are many wakeup calls. Unfortunately, sometimes we need a hard hit to get and keep our attention.
About the Author: Shelley Benveniste is South Florida editor of The Jewish Press.
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