By RC White, for the SouthFloridaReporter.com, Aug 25, 2015 – The night Hurricane Andrew closed in on South Florida, I slept on a drafting table in a concrete bunker of what once was the Fort Lauderdale city jail. As a CSI detective for the City of Fort Lauderdale, my co-workers and I had to be ready to investigate any deaths and crimes related to this category five storm of the century.
While it wasn’t my best nights’ sleep, I slept right through Andrew’s arrival. Fort
Lauderdale had been spared. Upon driving to my home, in Holiday Park, I discovered my front door had blown wide open, but there was no damage and no looting. It didn’t take long to learn that our neighbors, less than an hour’s drive to the south, were not as lucky.
For about a month, officers from the Fort Lauderdale Police Department volunteered to serve on 12 hour shifts in what was left of the City of Homestead. During my shifts I saw close-up the devastation that most only saw, briefly, on television.
While I’ll never forget the ground-zero level of destruction, what I recall best from my
days in post-Andrew Homestead is the human spirit of those that lived there and those
that came to help. Most structures simply had cryptic letters and numbers in spray paint
that let other first responders know the building had been searched already for victims. Others bore the mark of grateful survivors who still had a sense of humor.
The military drafted Ronald McDonald and converted a partially standing restaurant into a mess hall. South Floridians donated so much clothing that without an infrastructure in place to receive, store and sort everything, it rotted in piles in shopping center parking lots.
Perhaps the most memorable was the help that came from people in the Carolinas who
wanted to give back for the help they received after Hurricane Hugo just a few years earlier. A restaurant owner took it upon himself to bring a trailer with weeks of frozen food and a field kitchen so that he could cook for first responders and others in need. A municipality sent officers, radio communications, cars, trucks and even an animal control officer to do whatever they could do to help.
You never know when devastation or tragedy will strike but it’s good to know there are unselfish people who will offer to help.