Reflections on Hurricane Andrew

Today marks the 21st anniversary of Hurricane Andrew.  On August 24, 1992 this category 5 hurricane ravaged the lands of South Florida. Here are some of my reflections on the storm…

Sunday, August 23: My husband and I were co-hosts at a local radio station. It was an interesting and fun experience. Upon our return home, we paid serious attention to the forecast and proceeded to make some preparations for the storm. We had never experienced a hurricane so we had no idea what to expect. I recall my husband taping our windows and bringing in loose items from the patio into our garage. We also filled up some buckets of water. That was the extent of our preparation. Was that serious attention to the news? I remember thinking how can we have a hurricane coming when the sky is so serene and blue. Now I know that was the calm before the storm!

Sunday night: We went to sleep with no worries at all. Sometime during the early morning hours, perhaps about 2 A.M, we woke up to the howling wind and the crashing of tree branches against the walls. We sprung out of bed. Our entire household woke about the same time – my parents and our two young children joined us in the living room.

In the living room: We drew the vertical blinds to see what was going on outside. The children and I knelt on the sofa with our noses pressed to the windowpane, observing the swaying of the coconut palm in our yard and the thick sheets of pelting rain. We were so naïve! The front door rattled and bulged with the pressure of the wind and I vividly recall telling my dad and my husband as they were getting ready to place a sofa against the door, “do not put the new sofa, get the old one”. Was I stupid or what? In the interim of moving the sofa, the door could have come crashing down and we would have had some pretty serious injuries. I can’t remember what time the power went out.

Finding comfort on the floor: I think we were one of the few families that stayed in such close proximity to the danger of Hurricane Andrew. Most people gathered in their bathtubs,  in a study, or in a room. On the other hand, we brought out our comforters and spread them in the living room. We cuddled with the children until the howling and crashing winds and rains stopped. The children and I eventually fell asleep.

The daylight hours: The reality of Hurricane Andrew truly kicked in for us when we ventured outside. Our street was a jaw dropping sight… tiles from the rooftops, fallen fences, damaged cars, broken windows, houses with partial rooftops, blown out doors, dislodged cars, uprooted trees…you name the type of damage a hurricane can bring and it was there. The charging wind ripped apart one of my neighbor’s sliding doors, picked up a stereo speaker, and hit him smack above the eye. He had a huge bulge for days.

The damage to our property: The damage was minimal. It doesn’t compare to the other residents, so I don’t speak of it. We were saved from Hurricane Andrew, and I thank God and count my blessings for the protection. We were happy to only have had to deal with the loss of power for about a week, the summer heat during the day, and the mosquitoes by night. Hurricane Andrew taught us a valuable lesson in preparing for a storm.

Did I say I was four months pregnant at the time?

The aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in the Miami...

The aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in the Miami area (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A letter to my teachers

In 2007, I wrote a letter to my teachers at Zeeburg Secondary School for an alumni magazine. Unfortunately, the magazine did not take off and I did not pursue any other means of sending my letter. Last month, I attended an event celebrating the 50th year of Zeeburg Government Secondary School and I came back home inspired to find my letter written six years ago. I plan on sending out my blog link so my teachers can finally read this thank you letter.

Although many of my readers here do not know of my school, I am sure that you’ve got at least one teacher who made a lasting impression in your life. 

June 2007

My Teachers,

Although I think of you often and thank you in my heart for educating, loving, and believing in me, I have never taken the opportunity to show you how grateful I am to all of you. This tribute is long overdue, but I hope that my penned thoughts can in some small way express my gratitude to you for your dedication in teaching and nurturing my young impressionable mind. I thank you for the exceptional role you have had in my life when I was your student and for the influence you continue to exert on me as I go through life’s journey.

As teachers, you rarely get to see the fruits of your labor or the extent of your harvest, but it is my wish that you become aware of how your teachings have impacted my life and have molded and shaped me into the person I am today. You not only taught me academics, you taught me how to live, laugh, and love. You helped me to recognize that knowledge does not only come from a book, but from experiences such as mistakes, failures, and setbacks.

In this letter, I pay homage and give accolade to all my teachers. I would like to recount and reflect upon specific experiences, but I want to make it too long. I have encountered teachers throughout my life; each of us is a teacher in our own right, but had it not been for the influential and exceptional educators I found in you, I would not have experienced some of the personal triumphs in my life. You have instilled in me a love for school and the pursuit of lifelong learning. Thank you, my teachers!

You were masters at observation – because of the different activities I had in school, I was sometimes placed at the center of attention where everyone’s eyes were upon me.  Many times I wanted to deflect that attention by giving a poor excuse for not being able to participate, but being observant and intuitive individuals, my teachers recognized my doubt and fear and always nurtured my confidence back into place. Thank you for teaching me to believe in myself.

It is said that “teacher expectation” is one of the most important attributes in a student’s success and I can truly say that I bear witness to this belief. Here’s an example of such expectation: I recall when I was about 14 years old one of my teachers sent a message for me to go see him in his office. I was surprised, for this teacher did not teach me any academic subjects. However, he had an administrative role and that got my knees knocking. My mouth was dry. I was scared.

Upon arriving in his office, he looked at me through his thick glasses hanging at the tip of his nose, gave me a reassuring smile, and invited me to take a seat. In a soft, gentle, and kind voice he explained to me the reason I was sitting in his office – my marks (grades) had fallen; they were not where they ought to have been. There was no reprimand or expression of disappointment, just a reference to my gender, age, and the possibility that there might be some reciprocity toward the boys who were paying me much attention. He did not ask me to improve my grades, he expected me to do so. When I left his office that day, I decided to never give him the opportunity to invite me again for such a discussion. Teacher expectation was high. The lessons I learned decades ago have become a part of who I am today. Thank you, Mr. Gobin!

Throughout my years at Zeeburg Secondary I spent much time with some of you, grappling with debate preparation, public speaking tips, and learning valuable life lessons that did not come in a textbook. Familiarity allowed me the enviable opportunity to ask questions that a typical teenager dared not ask of her teachers. My questions were given the attention they deserved, and were answered accurately. I must admit that the boldness I displayed as a teen has not in any way diminished with age! Thank you for satisfying my curiosity.

I would be remiss if I do not mention the valuable spiritual lessons I gained at my Bible Club meetings while in school.  Bible Club was an extension of the values I was getting at home and at my church. I can also say without hesitation that my ability to speak to an audience of my peers, as well as adults was certainly encouraged and nurtured during those meetings. Even today, I often reflect upon those lunch time meetings and bask in the warmth of those fond memories.  Thank you, Mrs. Tulsi for your love, care, and devotion.

My teachers remain a constant source of inspiration – your lessons serve and inspire me daily. Thank you for instilling in me the drive and ambition to embrace the noble profession of teaching. Yes, I am a teacher! Each day as I step into my 3rd grade classroom, I emulate your high expectations and love of teaching and learning. Like you, I am also touching lives, building bridges, and enabling dreams.  Like you, I am also planting seeds of possibilities. Like you, I may not see the fruits of my labor, but you have assured me that I can impact lives decades later.

My teachers, I thank you for your guidance, knowledge, skills, and expertise, but above all, I thank you for educating, loving, and believing in me.

With love and gratitude,

Elaine

Zeeburg Government Secondary School Photo taken in 2011

Zeeburg Government Secondary School
Photo taken in 2011

9/11 in our thoughts forever

I often wonder what fleeting thoughts went through the minds of those who perished in the World Trade Center attack on that fateful day on September 11, 2001. Last year, I visited the 911 Memorial and took this photo of the arrangement of their names in the American flag.

I chose to share this photo for this week’s photo challenge on the idea of “fleeting.

Their thoughts might have been fleeting, but they will be in our thoughts forever.

This flag is created from the names of those who perished in the 911 attack.

This flag is created from the names of those who perished in the 911 attack.