Things We Lost in a Hurricane…

Don’t worry, hurricane season in Florida is finally over, and no major storms came to our neck of the woods this year. But that wasn’t the case in 2004. If you lived in the South at the time,  you might remember hurricanes Charlie, Francis and Jean. But Charlie is the one that changed our county forever.

We live in central Florida, so hurricanes aren’t a major issue around our parts. It’s something that mostly affects the folks on the coast. Or so we thought in August of 2004. Hurricane Charlie was heading towards Tampa, and my husband’s cousin and his wife  actually drove here to seek shelter in our house. Unexpectedly, the storm made a turn and suddenly we found ourselves literally in the eye of a powerful Category 4 hurricane.

Our house was constructed with concrete block and so were the houses of my in-laws and my husband’s uncle. You see, we all live in a small cul-de-sack, one big happy (if slightly dysfunctional) family. There wasn’t much time left to seek shelter and we figured our houses would stand up to hurricane winds. Wrong.

The next couple of hours were something I will never forget. If you’ve never been in an eye of a hurricane, let me try to describe it to you. Imagine a train passing just a few feet away  and the noise that’s associated with it. That’s what it was like when we were sitting in a hallway of our home. We could hear and feel  the trees falling on the house and were just hoping it would be over soon. Thankfully, we didn’t have kids at the  time, otherwise it would have been even scarier.

Finally it was over. Of course, we lost electricity, the water was coming down into our bedroom. But we were safe at last. I looked outside to see what kind of damage was done to our street. To my horror, the uncle’s home didn’t have a roof. I ran to my in-laws and was relieved to see that they were all alive and safe. The hurricane winds lifted the roof while they were sitting in the living room, and they had to run to my in-laws’ house for safety, with the trees  falling all over the place. Thankfully, the distance was short and they all made it.

Of course, as soon as winds have subsided, the reality sat in and the clean-up process began.  Needless to say, there wasn’t much to salvage in their house. Here is the photo:

CIMG0562_1

 

Understandably, my husband’s aunt was in shock and didn’t even know where to begin to pick up the pieces. My mother-in-law quickly said: “Let’s look for important documents and  family photo albums.” There wasn’t much time because  the weather was getting worse and the winds started picking up again. I could tell, as distraught as my husband’s aunt was, holding  family albums gave her a measure of comfort. Those were old photos that were not stored in a file, photos of special moments and family trips. The important stuff.

Several years prior, they lost their oldest son ( my husband’s first cousin) in a freak accident at the mines. He left two small children behind. Things would never be the same afterwards. But here in her hands, there were photos of him and things they did together as a family.

The events of 2004 now seem like a distant memory. Everyone has moved on, roof holes were patched up and new (better) houses were built. And yet, this hurricane has taught me many lessons. Namely, how unimportant material possessions really are, how quickly they can vanish into oblivion. It’s not the walls that make up  a home, it’s the people who live in it, the memories we create. It also made me realize yet again the importance of family. We all need people we can run to for shelter literally and figuratively.

6 thoughts on “Things We Lost in a Hurricane…

    • Nancy, thanks! Yup, we still live in the same house. My husband’s uncle and his family had an older home with a carport, which is probably why it couldn’t stand up to the powerful winds. It was quite an experience, for sure. They had to live in a tiny FEMA trailer for close to a year. But they got a super nice house of it, so it all worked out in the end. Their youngest daughter (the one who is having a baby), actually moved in with my husband and I for a period of time. She was the best behaved roommate ever! We missed her when she left. 😦

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  1. Gee! scary. I assume houses down there don’t have basements? They should! That’s what we have here in Minnesota, because of the cold and tornadoes. Funny, 5 minutes before reading your post I was unpacking a safe I bought to put passports and credit cards I’m not using at the moment. I guess it wouldn’t matter much!

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    • @Leticia Houses in Florida usually don’t have basements because they would flood. We have a lot of rain where we live and actually, our area has been recently designated a flood zone.
      A safe is a really good idea. You can just grab it if you have to leave quickly. Plus, it would make it through fire. I should get one myself. Thanks for giving me inspiration!

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  2. I remember I was eating at Chili’s when my mom called and told me their roof blew away. I had no idea the storm had turned until after the fact. Funny, what caught my eye in the picture you posted is my dad’s model car on top of the entertainment center. There sure are a lot of good memories in those photo albums that were salvaged. 🙂 Good reminder to make memories while we can.

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    • @Jennifer It’s funny, I forgot that we had those photos. I had to ask your mom if it’s OK to post one, and she said it was fine. Oh, and that model car caught my eye too! Your dad ended up getting the real deal eventually. I’m supposed to forward her other pictures, I think you’ll find them interesting.

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