Footage of the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew resembles a war zone more than it does the Miami of today. Still, the memories - though now 25-years-old - are particularly fresh for South Floridians as they anxiously await a larger, stronger Hurricane Irma.
Both hurricanes hit home for me. I was born and raised in Miami, and it’s where my parents still live and work.
My family lived through Andrew, though I was just 3-years-old at the time. So I asked my parents to fill in the blanks with some family pictures.
Our entire neighborhood, a now incorporated suburb of Miami-Dade County known as Palmetto Bay, was wiped out. Trees uprooted, signs, cars, and parts of homes strewn across roads like toys on a playroom floor.
We lost most of our gravel roof, so for weeks my father, mother, little sister and I shared a mattress in the only room dry after Andrew. My mother, pregnant with my youngest sister Michelle, gave birth before we regained power.
But little by little, my father rebuilt our home – the same home he shuttered up tonight.
"I just never thought I was going to live through another big storm, like I did 25 years ago, in my lifetime,” said my mom, Maria Gray, via FaceTime Friday night. “We'll just wait and see."
Both of my parents still work at the same hospital where they worked through Hurricane Andrew. My sister, grandma and I spent the night with other staff families in the hospital cafeteria. Initially forecast to hit northern Miami-Dade, Broward and West Palm, other hospitals transported patients to what is now known as Jackson South Memorial Hospital, only to have Hurricane Andrew change course at the last minute – straight for the hospital where we were all waiting the storm.
“We were kind of clueless it was heading for us until it actually hit the hospital and wiped out the hospital,” said my dad, Jim Gray. “And then we had to deal with all the patients because we lost the back-up power and had to manually respirate the patients that were critical. The ER flooded, all of the windows blew out of the hospital, and so the hospital was totally demolished and had to be closed."
Once again, my parents are on call to work through the storm at the hospital. Though they say our home is now better protected against Irma than it ever was against Andrew, they both tell me we will not rebuild if the house is destroyed this time.