My heart is severely pained within me, And the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling have come upon me, And horror has overwhelmed me. So I said, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. Indeed, I would wander far off, And remain in the wilderness. Selah . I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest. As for me, I will call upon God, And the LORD shall save me.” Psalm 55:4-8, 16 (NIV)
As I close out my list of “flashbulb moments”, I had intended to leave 9/11 for last. But, as I laid them out chronologically, one more event shaped my world after 9/11: Hurricane Katrina’s arrival on August 29, 2005. Up until Katrina, as Florida natives, husband and I were blasé about hurricanes. Some people in our community believe we have been spared from a direct hit because Native Americans buried a talisman that repels storms in one of the Indian Mounds. As a historian, I have to laugh because I know of several storms that greatly impacted the area in the past. One in 1846, blew all the water out of the Manatee River. Settlers went out during the eye of the storm and collected fish from the river’s bottom. Two years later, a storm washed water into the river flooding houses and businesses above the second floor. That was the same storm that blew down the cabin of Terra Ceia’s first residents forcing them to move into a chicken coop until they could rebuild. Other storms have completely rearranged barrier islands, stripped orange groves or washed away ships. We are not immune. Still, husband and I and most of our friends and family keep an eye on approaching storms, board up as we need to and then, sit tight and wait it out. In all the years we have lived on our island, we have only evacuated twice. Once, because we were already scheduled to go to a dog show in Orlando and once because friends in Myakka insisted we come out and stay with them. That time, the storm went right over their house leaving ours untouched. We came home that very day. They were without power for over a week. But Katrina changed things for us. With images of the powerful storm surge completely overpowering New Orleans, in my mind, I could superimpose what that would mean to our home. Stories of people seeking shelter in their attic, poking holes in the roof and waiting for helicopters to bring rescue made me rethink my complacency. Were a storm surge of that magnitude to make landfall here, our home would be destroyed, most likely pushed right off its foundation. A1926 hurricane which devastated south Florida from Miami on the east coast to Cortez on the west coast triggered the collapse of the 1920s real estate boom sending Florida into a depression three years before the stock market collapse. I believe Katrina in addition to the same type of speculation 80 years before, is also partly responsible for the decline in property values once again. Not to mention the rise in insurance premiums. While Katrina affects our pocket books, it also affects our psyche. Should another storm come our way, we plan to evacuate, taking pets and livestock and a few boxes of important papers set aside for such an emergency with us. The memory of Katrina’s wrath is too great for us to stay here and take our chances.