It’s hard for me not to get sentimental when I think about the hurricane currently ravaging the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Not that I love hurricanes or anything; it’s just that Georges reminds me of all the times in between (and during) hurricanes that I lived on the Coast. I wouldn’t attempt to count how many hurricanes I went through while calling the Coast home. I don’t dare count all the times we taped our windows and packed our essentials thinking one was about to hit us only for it to suddenly change course and cause another area nightmares. I never actually stayed in town and rode out one, though. We always went inland for the storms. Not far inland, only about two and a half hours northeast of our home in Biloxi, to our house in Evergreen, Alabama. The funny thing to me was that the schools in Evergreen would cancel school at the drop of a hat. That’s how we could always judge whether or not schools in Biloxi were open. If for some reason Evergreen found reason to close schools; we were sure Biloxi schools would be closed, too. I can never remember the names of the hurricanes that just scared us or really knocked it to us. I have small memories of what happened before, during, and after them, though.
Before one hurricane (which ended up actually hitting us), I think we got out of school early because of the impending danger, but most of our parents were at work so it didn’t matter. I lived on Keesler Air Force Base at that time, and my next door neighbors were the Sherods. Their son was Robert Ward. I remember him calling me not long after we got home and telling me to fill up milk jugs full of water, to be sure to fill up our bathtubs with water, etc. The excitement was too much for me. Nothing gets the blood rushing like a good storm on the horizon. I laughed at him through the phone and said something negative toward him to which he cursed at me and said, “Fine. When it’s all over and done with, don’t come asking me for water.” Or something along those lines, and hung up on me. So much for the bonding of neighborhoods during crises. No, really, I think there is something to be said for people who regularly go through storms like those that hit the Coast every year. They always help each other, but I’ll get to that later. During that same storm, I remember getting ready to go inland to our house in Evergreen and my dad having to go back to his office to finish some last minute business or something. We waited quite impatiently for him to come home so we could get the hell out of there before the storm hit and the roads were impassable. Finally, he called and said he had been ordered to run one of the shelters on base. Ah, the joys of serving in the military. And who do you think picks up the most after the storms? The airmen from Keesler. I guarantee it. They’re all there studying meteorology anyway. Their conversations with commanding officers must go something like this:
Why do we always have to pick up the mess after the storm?
What are you here studying, son?
Damn right. Now get out there and pick up after your weather.
Something like that, anyway. Getting back to the bonding and cooperation of communities before, during and after big storms, I remember a hurricane that hit when I lived in Alabama. We, once again, went to Evergreen to get out of the way of the storm. The next day, when we were driving back to our home, I remember running into a downed powerline where Red Cross volunteers were lifting it very carefully over every passing car. As we pulled through, my mom stopped and asked one of the men there how clear the road was and he said they had already cleared it all the way to where we were going which was still an hour and a half away. There are a lot more memories from storms. I remember Robert outside right after one storm with a bunch of friends playing with toy airplanes and calling themselves the Hurricane Hunters or something. Which is another thing that goes on at Keesler. Keesler is the home of the world renowned Hurricane Hunters. They fly big C-130s into the eye of hurricanes and take readings which aid the National Weather Service in predicting the path and reporting information about hurricanes to the public.
I remember so many things from back then, and the odd thing is that I can’t remember many bad things. So many storms, so little time.