Imagine you're an 18-year-old freshman settling into your dorm room two days before you start school at the University of Miami. You hear news reports about a category 4 hurricane barreling toward your new home, but chalk it up to media hysteria. It couldn't be worse than the monsoons you'd been accustomed to during your high school days in Bangkok, you rationalize.
Around three a.m., the pounding rain and the horrific whistling made by gale force winds crushing against the window shutters jolts you awake. A resident assistant barges into your room to get your ass into the hallway because the gusts are so strong the shutters might implode. You weather the storm under your mattress in the hall, dozing in and out of sleep while getting intermittently sprayed with a water mist as a result of the the wind opening and shutting the fire escape door.
That was Fabio Iannelli's rude introduction to Hurricane Andrew, the major storm that decimated parts of Miami-Dade County 20 years ago.
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Now 38, the Internet consulting company owner has created a website, www.aisforandrew.org, where Miamians can share their stories about Andrew and its aftermath. (Full disclosure: Banana Republican and Iannelli are longtime friends since he transferred to Barry University from UM in 1994.) Users can simply click on "Post Your Story" and a box will pop up where they can type in their tales.
Iannelli says he was moved to create the site by the camaraderie among locals he experienced in the wake of the storm. "It's a way for us to give back to the Miami community and give a little introspection into each one of our stories," he says. "and how we each dealt with the devastation that Andrew caused."
On the website, Iannelli closes his story by noting that he decided to make the Magic City his home. "I am still in Miami, have a beautiful wife and children and am proud to see Miami reborn, recovered, and best of all, have thousands of people that I know can relate to me, when I say, I was here for Andrew."