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The Untold Story of Hurricane Andrew
From the Journal of an
by Nikki Willhite
Aug. 29, 1992- I had one of
my three sons drive me to the airport at 6:45 in the morning. I carried a heavy
ladder, and the biggest suitcase I had. I was stuck on the last seat on the
plane- right over the engine noise. It was a long flight from Seattle to Miami.
I developed a terrible headache.
After arriving in Miami, I
had a long wait for my luggage and then I had to pick up my rental car. By this
time my head was throbbing. I had fifteen blocks to drive to get to the hotel,
where I could take my aspirin. However, it was dark, flooded, and there were no
street signs to guide me. It took me 45 minutes to reach my hotel.
Upon arriving at the hotel I
was told there was no water to take my aspirin. I searched in vain for a machine
with liquid of any sort. Finally I went down to the kitchen, where for $5.00
they give me a soda pop.
I checked in at the desk for
messages. There were none. I lay awake wondering what tomorrow would bring.
Aug. 30- I drove my car over
to join my company team and receive instructions. Before setting off for my
designated area, I buy bottled water, batteries, an umbrella, and a rain poncho.
My first assignment was 4
claims- on the same street. Then I drove toward Homestead. I was only halfway
there when I began seeing the totally unbelievable destruction. I couldn't
believe how bad it was, and I was only halfway there.
August 31- I paid over
$200,000 today in just one day. I found myself very emotionally upset at the
severe destruction. Not only that- it was difficult to drive around without any
street signs. Everywhere that I stopped the people would rush around my car,
which had the signs of my insurance company on it, asking for help. People were
sitting outside of what was left of their homes, with their insurance company's
names and their policy numbers written on whatever part of their home was left
September 6th- I am being
transferred into the hardest hit area of Hurricane Andrew. I write home "The
only way to describe the destruction of this type of thing is to see it for
yourself. I have seen a lot of storm damage in the past, but what sets this
apart, is that it goes on for miles and miles. Today I was in a retired couples
condominium. They were essentially camping out. The roof was gone, there was no
air-conditioning, and they were living on a concrete floor. I have not seen
these types of conditions since I left Mexico over 20 years ago".
September 20th- A lot of
people here are under a lot of stress. Many of the claims are difficult to do,
because the owners have just left. There are so many, many claims, and the
people that are still here are so desperate. The pressure to get them all done
as quickly as possible is severe. There are not enough hours in the day, and we
are all feeling the burden of the long, hours of endless work. Many adjusters
have left- unable to take to strain. Some did not last for more than a few days.
It's like being in a "war zone". I must try and take a day off to relieve my
September 28th- I called my
wife Nikki tonight. It is hard on her for me to be gone so long. While I am talking to
her, there is gunfire in the background. I hope she doesn't hear it. Yesterday,
when I was doing a claim, 3 young men came up to the house with guns. The owner
and I stood outside while they took away what was left in the house.
Oct 5th- Finally I am going
home- for a few days. Then I must come back. I don't want to, but I am needed.
Oct. 8th- My son again drove
me to the airport at 6:30 in the morning. This time I am prepared. I know what
to expect. It does not make it easier. As I am flying away from Seattle again, I
think of my wife and three sons, and how much I am going to miss while I am
November 6th- the work goes
on and on, but I will not be here to do it. This is my last night. Tomorrow I am
going home and will not be back. I pray for these poor people and all they have
been through. It has been so stressful for everyone involved. So many people
have left. One of the other adjusters from my company had his hair turn totally
white while he was here.
November 7th- I got up at
6:00 AM for my flight. After another very long day, I am finally home. When I
got home, I found my luggage had been opened, and the money I had put in there
was gone. After all I had done to help these people, it seemed a real "slap in
the face". I was later to learn that luggage theft at the Miami airport was
common. I wish I had known.
November 8th- It's Sunday,
and after going to Church, I rested all day. There will be no other rest for me,
as I have to go back to my regular job tomorrow. Tomorrow I will tell my wife
the things that I dare not tell her when I was in Florida. It would have upset
her too much. When she knows the whole story, she will understand why I am going
out tomorrow to buy a gun.
About the Author: Nikki Willhite,
mother of 3 and an interior design graduate, has been writing and publishing
articles on the topic of
frugal living for over a
decade. Visit her at
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