Then, at the tail end of the storm, a group of us was trapped in one room. The air pressure outside wouldn't let us open the door. The roof rattled, and the walls started to buckle. We dragged a mattress to the bathroom and tried to shield our heads. One woman started crying. A couple of us kept racing to the door to force it open, but it wouldn't budge. I stepped into the bathtub with several others and we started to pray.

Don and another man pushed up on the bathroom roof with all their brawn. The roof lifted and slammed back down. It did it again and again. The howls were so deafening it was hard to stay calm.

Somebody ran to the door again — and this time it finally opened. By the time we rushed out of the room, it was cracking open.

We waited out the storm a few more hours and then found a German tourist, terrified but unscathed, under a mattress in a room that had been torn to shreds. When the sun finally peeped over the horizon, we stood on an untouched slice of balcony and looked out. Florida City was unrecognizable.

Joe Tanfani (then a reporter, now a Los Angeles Times Washington bureau reporter): I was considered a tiny, dwarfish talent and pretty much stuck in the office after the first day. One thing they had me doing was trying to track down the estimable Dade County mayor, Steve Clark. I wrote this story that pretty much said he was missing in action, and some time later, he chewed me out: "You know what I was doing? I was trying to get the water turned on at the Herald building!"

Ileana Oroza (then an assistant managing editor, now a University of Miami instructor): I spent the night on the floor in my office, and my visiting nephew was with me. I had just managed to fall asleep around 3 or 4 a.m. when the phone rang. It was a journalist from Israel wanting a report on the hurricane. After the storm, we gathered around the copy desk to plan our next move. It was about 8 a.m. when the phone rang. One of the editors answered, and after a few seconds, said in a pleading voice: "Sir, we just had a hurricane." The caller was an annoyed reader asking why his newspaper hadn't been delivered.

Andrew Innerarity (then a staff photographer, now a freelancer): When the storm hit, I was on a three-month leave of absence to backpack Europe. I came back a week after the storm with no idea how serious the whole thing was. The flight from London to MIA landed at night, and on approach, I'll never forget seeing a huge line of emergency vehicles, lights flashing someplace in Southwest Dade.

Once back at work in early September, I headed to Homestead every day for months. At city hall, the smell from the tons of donated clothing, which had been rained on daily, was unreal. The devastation was so thorough I could hardly recognize anything in the region.

I remember an Airborne soldier telling me how trashed the Air Force base was. He said the devastation was so complete that if the military "had attacked the place, the only thing [it] would have done different was crater the runway."

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2 comments
eleceng
eleceng

"my shirt as insulation"

 

You are incredibly lucky to be alive.  By the way... you would have known if the cable was hot LONG before you stepped out of the truck.  Hehehe.

 
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