Watching "Gustav" makes me, of course, remember "Andrew" 16 years ago.
I've written here before that I lost pretty much everything I owned to Andrew: all of it drenched when my home's roof peeled away during the storm. When I made it back to the house (climbing over tree limbs the last quarter-mile because I couldn't get my car any closer) I found inches of rainwater covering everything. The few things I saved were either on shelves (a small TV, a microwave oven) or were impervious to water (glass paperweights, some files in a tightly-sealed cabinet).
In a way, I was very lucky: I didn't own my house, I rented it. After two or three trips to salvage what I could and meet with an insurance adjuster I was able to walk away and never look back.
Except to tell you this story about my landlord.
She was an ex-flight attendant for Eastern Airlines. She bought the house in the "Country Walk" neighborhood when she was single. Later she married an Eastern pilot, and together they bought a bigger house in Country Walk and got down to the business of raising a family, putting her smaller home up for rent. That's where I came in.
The two had a son--a darling little boy, about five, with curly blonde hair and a winning smile. A shy, well-mannered young man.
AA--"After Andrew"--his mother told me the story of how the family weathered the storm.
I spent the night at the TV station. But my landlord and her husband decided to ride out Andrew at home. The child, seeing the warnings on TV and sensing something was up, turned to his mother for reassurance. She told him that a big wind was coming--that there would be a lot of rain--that the power might even go out. But she said a neighbor family and their little boy were coming over, and they'd have a party while the storm passed.
Some party. At the height of the storm the two families found themselves huddled under mattresses in the bathroom while the roof of the home blew off and they hugged each other--literally for dear life.
They survived drenched, exhausted, but alive!
My landlord later told me that for several hours after the storm passed, that little boy never said a word. He was in shock. But there was nothing that could be done, no place to go for help, no way to get there (their cars were buried under debris), no light, no power, only the food and water they had set aside.
When the boy finally did speak, his first words were, "Mommy, I didn't want my party to be like that."
No one did, son. No one did.
Every home in Country Walk suffered major damage. Roughly a third were destroyed or left uninhabitable. The last time I saw my old home it was a concrete pad, waiting for construction workers to start all over.