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August 29, 2005

And thirty six years later, they do it AGAIN

A little over thirty six years ago, part of my childhood died when Hurricane Camille hit the Gulf Coast of Mississippi and basically flattened her. Gone were the huge trees that lined the streets, gone were many homes and businesses, gone was the giant Edgewater Hotel where I spent many summers with my grandmother and cousin basking in the Mississippi summer sun and playing bingo at night in the Hotel lounge.

Growing up in middle Mississippi, I had never dealt with hurricanes only tornados and those we had. The one thing I knew about hurricanes was that my grandmother, who lived in Deland, found these glass balls on the beach after a hurricane that came off the fisherman's nets. As soon as the hurricane was gone, she had my granddaddy at that beach so she could find these green and clear glass balls. That was my knowledge of hurricanes.

In 1966, we moved from Mississippi to Florida and I learned firsthand about hurricanes. I learned that I did not like them but then again, I was never really in a bad one. Instead I chose to live in earthquake country in California for 13 years.

When I moved my kids back to Florida in 1989, right off the bat, there was a hurricane. But it was not until 1999 that we actually were told to get off Merritt Island because of a hurricane. Twice in 16 years I have had to pack up my precious pictures and all my pets and kids and leave my home. No fun but thinking of what could happen was even worse.

Last year we had a hurricane that looked to be headed straight for Merritt Island. They told us we had to get out because if we stayed, we could be underwater. Now leaving was the hardest thing I have ever done. Not because I was leaving everything I had but because my dad refused to leave. So I left my oldest son with my dad and just prayed that God would protect them.

We lucked out and the hurricane lingered but it was no where near the strength or damage they had expected. But it will come and we all know it will come just as Katrina has come to take my beloved Mississippi again.

I realized that it makes no difference how far away from a hurricane you are, there is no sleep after you have been in one yourself because of the fear you feel for the intended new victims. What makes it even worse, it is headed straight to your family and friends that you grew up with.

After Camille hit in 1969, I went back to Biloxi to see what was left. But there was nothing left of what I knew or had grown up with. Everything was gone. Part of my family was gone because they decided a hurricane party was the way they would wait out the storm with their neighbors and friends. No one realized that there is no safe place when a hurricane that size hits and very little can withstand 210 mile an hour wind.

Tonight I can still see that devastation in my mind. I still feel the emptiness of that day's drive to my favorite vacation place and nothing was left. I still remember all the nights I spent in New Orleans with friends and having a Hurricane at Pat O'Brien's and staying down in the French Quarter and having French doughnuts for breakfast. Will Katrina leave me any of my memories, somehow I doubt it.

Mississippi has dirt racing tracks that they love just as much as we love our tracks. Will they still be there after tonight??
The odds are that they won't and what is left may not be enough to rebuild.

All the places I took Alex and Josh to last year as we ran from our hurricane are the ones being hit tonight including my hometown in Mississippi and where I grew up, where my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousin are buried. Where life is more slow paced than life here in Florida. Where hometowns are still small and everyone knows everyone and front doors are not locked.

How many years will it take for them to rebuild and where will they move when they are fed up with Mother Nature and her hurricanes?

Sleep out of the question. Prayers never ending. Memories planted deeper in the mind. And knowledge knowing that this is not the last hurricane and none of us are out of harms way when it comes to hurricanes.

Fact - knowing that we have to smell the roses, open the eyes wide and treasure what we see because tomorrow, it could be gone in a flash.

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