Friday, August 24, 2012

August 24, 1992

Miami Herald, Aug. 25, 1992.

They awakened before dawn and trudged through the desolation and found their way to the military field kitchens. Smoke rose from cooking fires and the people gathered and soon they sat on the ground, huddled over plastic dishes of charity, and they didn't say very much.

Alter a few details and it looked like Ethiopia or Somalia. But it was South Dade on Saturday -- the first weekend of a new existence in an utterly transformed place.

Priscilla Gatrell of Homestead, now essentially homeless, still wearing a designer T-shirt, gratefully accepted eggs and sausage prepared by cooks wearing the olive drab uniforms of the U.S. Army.

"I'm standing in line and I'm thinking, 'I can't believe I'm doing this. I'm above this,' " said Gatrell, 43. "But I'm not above it because I'm no different than anyone else.

"Our whole life is up in the air. Can anyone tell us what to do? Can someone tell me what is happening to this life we had?"

What is happening to this life we had?
-Martin Merzer, Miami Herald, Aug 30, 1992

No one who lived through it will ever forget it.

The destruction was incomprehensible. The pain inflicted, unimaginable.

Everyone's got a's mine:

I was one of the lucky ones. My apartment building in Kendall was virtually undamaged.

A Baptist church just three blocks away sustained major damage. I protected my car by parking it in a garage at Dadeland.

On the afternoon of the 24th, I drove down to Country Walk to check on my mother who had opted to ride out the storm with friends.

I had my cameras with me but I never shot one frame as I drove past one destroyed building after another.

Looking back at it now, I'm pretty sure I was suffering from some kind of shock.

My mother was fine. Her home about a mile away was totally destroyed.

She picked through the rubble, gathered some clothing and personal papers, got in my car and never looked back.

My building was without power, of course, and there was no way of telling when the it would be restored.

So, on Wednesday, I traveled to northern reaches of Broward County ending up in Delray Beach. I found a motel on A1A with a vacancy and booked a room for a week.

The next day, I turned on my answering machine and then my mother and I drove up to our temporary home.

Mom spent most of her time watching TV coverage of Andrew's aftermath. 

I called my answering machine every day. And every day the phone just rang and rang.  On Sunday, August 30, the answering machine kicked in. I had power once again.

My mother decided she'd had enough of South Florida and drove north to Ocala to stay with friends and start life anew.

I drove back home and started documenting the aftermath for various clients.

Town homes at 8140 SW 208th Terrace.

Saga Bay.

Saga Bay.

I haven't thought much about the storm in the years since.

All I know is that no one should have to endure anything like Andrew more than once in their life.

But I also know that most of us don't have much say in the matter.

Miami New Times: Hurricane Andrew at 20: Miami Herald Reporters Remember

Al Diaz Photo: Hurricane Andrew - 20 Years

Newspaper Alum: 20-Year Anniversary of Hurricane Andrew: A Q & A with former Miami Herald executive editor Doug Clifton

Jim Morin, Miami Herald, 8-25-1992.

Video by Chuck Fadely

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