|This is our Airstream camper behind Doris's|
hurricane blasted home - in 1992.
|Lulu and I - 25 years ago - already we were|
sleeping in trucks. 1300 miles from
home - just two days
before school starts back home.
We are in Cocoa Beach - FL for a little vacation with the kids. Houston is being pounded by Hurricane Harvey. It is sweltering hot here and it seems like yesterday we visited Doris Hollenbach Meneses in her tropical home south of Miami.
We were at home in Pennsylvania enjoying the last few days at the pool before we started the 1992 school year. Lulu was teaching at Tamaqua and I was back at Panther Valley.
All of a sudden we got a strange phone call from Doris. We could barely hear her - her bag cell phone was going dead. She said Hurricane Andrew put them through a nightmare. They had no power - the well pump burned out so they had no water. They lived on the edge of the Everglades - and monkeys got out of the wild animal farm. They needed help.
The family spent the terrible storm - barricaded in the bathroom - under mattresses.
We had just purchased an old clunker Airstream camper. Doris and Lulu graduated from THS in 1972 together. We had to help. Her father Bob - brother Bob - and Brother Jay - started collecting stuff around town. Batteries - generators - well pumps - food - clothes - blankets were collected and loaded into our camper. Father Bob piled into the camper with us and away we went. Jay and Bob hopped into a pickup followed. We were all driving 1300 miles from Tamaqua PA to Homstead FL to help our fellow Coal Crackers.
On the way down - my camper broke down twice. Once in South Carolina - the water pump failed. Then in Miami - a wire came off the generator. But that night - a wrecker piloted by a man named Angel towed us right into Doris's yard. Angel was really an angel because for the last 40 miles we passed through bombed out Southern Florida. We rode in the cab with our Angel - and passed through miles of desolation. First - it was August in Southern Florida - and all the trees were bare. Andrew had sucked every leaf off every tree with his 150 miles an hour winds. Next all the power and phone lines were gone - again pulled off the poles like spaghetti. The only lights we saw were blue lights on police cars circling the stores and shopping malls. We breezed through toll booths at 50 MPH - not stopping to pay the fee as they waved us through.
Finally - we saw what was left of Doris's home. Elias and the kids were happy to see us. After we unloaded all the booty - the only thing the kids wanted were showers. Having those kids there reminded us of our two boys back home. That night - as the sun set over the beautiful flooded farm fields - Lulu said to Doris - that she did not know they had lake frontage. That water did not go down for days.
That night - after the kids had showers - they piled into our camper - and slept in clean fresh beds - with the air conditioner running off the camper generator. It would be a while before they could do that again.
Jay - Bob - and Elias got the well pump fixed. We struck up the generators that would power them for 4 months. Finally on Thanksgiving power was restored - when Doris bribed the power crew with a Thanksgiving feast.
We stayed a week. We helped cover the roof with blue FEMA tarps. We ripped out soaked carpet and tried to prevent mold. We woke up at 6 AM to the tune of two DC-3's carpet spraying the neighborhood for mosquitoes. Elias had the unpleasant task of shooting an invading monkey inside his home. It had escaped from the research farm down the road - supposedly they experimented with AIDS at the time - a terror worse than the hurricane.
It was the day before Labor Day - we had to head home for school in 2 days. We were feeling post-tramautic stress syndrome. We woke up from nightmares (that lasted for several weeks) and Lulu had a need to stop at every outlet mall on the way home to grasp on to civilization.
It was a terrible feeling leavng Doris and Company behind to subsist on that place - like a third world country. I tried to talk Doris out of staying - I suggest pulling up the family to Orlando or even Tamaqua. But they were determined to rebuild - and they did.
FEMA moved a house trailer onto their lot and they lived there while it took almost a year to rebuild their home. 25 years later they are still there. Doris still sobs when you bring up the topic. She writes for the local paper - and her stories tell the history of their community. But more than that they are therapy for Doris and how she deals with life. Doris is a survivor and one of our longest and best friends. She is now a grandmother several times over. There is nothing she likes better taking care of the grand babies.
Where do people get courage like that? How do you hang on when Nature deals you a bum hand. Doris picked herself up - dusted herself off - and just went on with her life.
As I type - Hurricane Harvey is pounding Houston. We wish the victims the strength of Doris to pull them through.
|Doris's two vans formed a wall against the hurricane.|
All the windows were blown out by Andrew.