|Photo taken from Wikipedia|
I woke up real early to take my sister to the airport. She was going back to California, where she was living at the time. My father and my brother were in Dallas in a karate championship, where my brother was participating in. I picked up my sister to take her to the airport and my mother came along. As we left the airport we heard the rumors that this terrible hurricane was going to hit South Florida. We drove over to my apartment, but before, we stopped in this tiny pharmacy on Ponce de Leon Blvd. We bought tape and headed to tape up all my windows. I picked up some clothes and my passport and drove to my parents. When we arrived we began on a mission to pick up everything outside. There was a strange denseness in the air. The dog was extremely nervous and cried every so often. My mother gave the dog a bath, and brought him into the house.
My father called frantically from Houston, where his flight was connecting to come home, and told us they were bumped off the flight; and was booked on the following flight. For hours we called Continental airlines trying to find out if that flight was coming in. We drove to the airport at the scheduled time they were to arrive Miami Airport hoping they had made it. Their flight was one of the last flights to come in to Miami Airport that day.
I still don’t remember the exact time, but by a certain hour we were all in my parent’s home; including my grandparents. I remember how we went from room to room; simply waiting for an outcome. Thinking about it now, a hurricane must feel the same way a country feels when at war…waiting for that strike… and the aftermath.
The electricity went out early in the night, and I remember calling a friend of mine quite a few times to see how things were doing in his end. There was a collective air of fear everywhere you turned. Now matter how many times one has experienced a hurricane, especially for us living in this part of the world, one never comes to terms with it. At some hour of the night, the winds became stronger, and the banging of the hurricane shutters became the soundtrack of that entire night. The whistle trailing behind the wind gives me chills to this day. We clung to each other, and eventually everything came to an end; or was it the beginning of its next stage? Survival…
Nothing major happened to my parent’s house. Little things here and there compared to what we started hearing in the radio. My parent’s home was without electricity for about eleven days. The neighbors across the street had power, and they threw an electrical cord across the street so that my parents could use some of it. As soon as I could, I drove home and found the streets covered with trees and debris. With the exception of a broken window in the bathroom and something in the toilet everything else was in order. There was no electricity here as well.
I remember a friend called me and I drove over to pick him up and brought him home. We lingered about all day; from window to window silently; sometimes looking at each other; others not knowing we were even there. It was very hot, and muggy. The white sheets in my bed were warm and slippery with sweat and our odors. Those few days seemed to last forever. We ate all sorts of junk food, and from time to time found refuge in each other’s arms. I don’t remember exactly when the electricity came back; but when it did I drove him back to his place. I went to work as usual, and began the routine as if nothing had happened. But something monstrous had happened and our lives were definitely changed.
During that whole week after Andrew, at work we asked for donations, clothes, food and anything that could help. A few people from work loaded a van with all the things we had gathered and drove that Saturday morning to Kendall, and the surrounding areas that were affected most. We gave away bottled water, toilet paper, canned food, pampers, and tons of other items. I felt an incredible rush jumping out of the van and handing these things out to people who looked so desolate, so incredibly sad. We emptied out the van and drove back to the office in silence.
What I remember most about that day was the way the areas looked. At times, I felt we were standing where a bomb had exploded. Neighborhood upon neighborhood seemed like a giant thrash can filled with all the debris.
Twenty years later seems like a long time, and many other tragedies have taken place over the years; yet today I feel as nervous and anxious as I felt that morning when driving my sister to the airport. There is somenthing in the air...
Manuel A. López
Miami, August 2012