Getting Storm-Organized

September 7, 2011

It wasn’t until Hurricane Irene curved away from the state of Florida that I  began thinking about what could have happened. With photos soon emerging of the storm-induced flooding in the Northeast part of the country, and the assault of Tropical Storm Lee as we vacationed in Western North Carolina over Labor Day, I knew it was time to prepare. That is, to get storm-organized.   

As I see it, there are two ways to prepare. First, if the electricity is knocked out, are we prepared?  Yes and no. We have a generator, a little fuel and a little food and water stocked up.  Could we survive for a week? Yes.  But we might want to stock up on more batteries and water, and build up that first aid kit.

Second, what if we have to evacuate at some point? What am I taking with me and how fast can I gather it?  This is a potential reality for all Florida residents, and nothing has prompted this Floridian into action more than the recent storms. Besides essential food, water and first aid supplies, what would I want to save?  With this question in mind I headed to Target to purchase a pink bin for personal items that I would want to save if disaster were heading my way. 

Next I began looking around the house, making a list of those things to gather quickly.  So far my list contains important papers, a few old photo albums (which I fortunately consolidated earlier this year), a few small family antiques,and a few pieces of jewelry including a black pearl I bought in Beijing a few years ago. 

During this list making process I realized that all my photos and mementoes of my years in the European modeling scene are scattered all over the place, in no particular order.  Knowing that I would want to save something from that time in my life,  I’ve decided that my next project is to turn this: 

Into this: 

And with four more storms brewing out there at the moment, I might want to hurry.


Hemingway’s Hurricane

September 7, 2010

This past holiday weekend marked the 75th anniversary of the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane.  The hurricane hit the Florida Keys with unprecedented intensity, destroying everything in its path and stealing the lives of over 400 residents, visitors and hardworking WWI veterans.  

On our trip to the Keys in early June, we passed a small sign alerting us to a memorial just up ahead at about Mile Marker 82, on the Matacumba Keys.  We stopped to check it out.  A red, white and blue ribboned wreath adorned the memorial, a fitting tribute for Memorial Day weekend.

The memorial, dedicated on November 14, 1937, pays tribute to the WWI veterans and civilians who died in the hurricane. The obelisk rises 18-feet, with a sculpture of a tidal wave and bending palms, symbolizing the high surge and forceful winds of the storm.  A simple bronze plaque sits below the structure, and it reads:

Dedicated to the Memory of the Civilians And The War Veterans Whose Lives Were Lost In The Hurricane of September Second 1935.

Entombed in the memorial is a crypt containing the cremated remains of as many as 190 victims of the storm, many of them WWI veterans.  These veterans had been sent to the Florida Keys to work on the U.S. 1 highway.  This was a government solution to the rise of protests by veterans who wanted to receive their benefits earlier than promised. Instead of granting the benefits early, the Roosevelt administration developed a work program specifically for the veterans.  And connecting the Keys by way of a highway was a prime project under that program.

In some circles, this storm became known as Hemingway’s Hurricane.  Ernest Hemingway did not hide his anger at the lack of adequate housing for the veterans and lack of proper warning and evacuation.  He even published an essay entitled “Who Murdered the Vets?”

The Memorial is easy to miss, and I’m sure many Key visitors drive right past it every day.  But it’s worth a visit, even if just for a few minutes, if not for a historical perspective, then at least for a moment of silence for those who now find it to be their final resting place.