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Thursday - September 11, 2003

Note: Fair warning! This is not the type of snappy, sarcastic, sexy blog entry youíve come to expect from me or PSD, so if youíre not in the mood for serious personal inner reflection, you might want to skip this one.

It is the anniversary of September 11th, and well, Iím going to digress from the usual sexy banter. 

Before I go into this entry, Iíd like to offer both these requests:

1. Donate to the Red Cross.
2. If you are into folk music at all, you might want to download ďSeptember 12thĒ  by David Wilcox. It isn't about the Statue of Liberty shooting the bird at people, or some country singer talking about firing a bomb up someoneís ass, and doesn't preach to you. It resonates very peacefully and poignantly. 

For most people, September 11th will be the day that changed their lives and they will think in terms of ďbefore 9/11Ē and ďafter 9/11.Ē For me, this isnít the case simply because before 9/11, I went through Hurricane Andrew, and my life is already defined as ďBefore AndrewĒ and ďAfter Andrew.Ē While I somberly reflected upon the one-year anniversary of 9/11 last year, I spent far more time dealing with my feelings regarding the 10 year anniversary of Andrew that took place only a couple weeks before. 

For those who might not know, in August of 1992 Hurricane Andrew did ďDEĒ things to South Florida (decimated, destroyed, demolished). From about midnight to 7am, I went through several hours of the worst terror Iíve ever experienced in my life. Luckily I was too busy working with my family to keep our home intact to dwell on my panic. We were busy nailing broken shelves over shattered windows and duct-taping doors weíd nailed shut to prevent a vacuum from forming and pushing heavy furniture against sliding glass doors that were defying the laws of physics by bowing inward. 

When you see people on TV who say theyíre staying in their homes and having a party despite a hurricane being imminent, these are people who have been through category 1s or 2s and who just had to get some bottled water and hunker down for a few days with canned goods. They are people who donít understand what a category 4 or 5 hurricane can do. They donít know that is sounds like 10,000 freight trains are barreling by outside and you have to shout at the top of your lungs to be heard by a person standing beside you. They donít understand that it can be a relentless onslaught that never quits battering and slamming and pummeling until it has moved on (we never got an eye, or a break in the storm, as we were in the area that the eyewall rode while the storm crossed Miami). Those people donít know, but those who survive will. 

After the storm stopped, my world was turned upside down. In one day I went from being a kind of prissy upper-middle-class young adult to existing like a refugee in a war zone. My family and I lost nearly all our personal belongings as did my friends & family members who all lived nearby. There was insurance money, to be sure. But it didnít get to anyone for quite some time. And it didnít replace family heirlooms or photographs. It didnít replace my first-edition Tennyson, or the shell necklace I bought in Key West when I was six years old with the money I saved from my own allowance. And while it helped to fix and repair, South Miami and Homestead are still never quite the same. 

And insurance money didnít give us back the months of our lives following the storm when we felt like we were living in an alien world. All our illusions of a comforting hearth and the safe harbors of home were shattered along with every window in the house. We didnít have a roof for a month. We didnít have windows for three. But that was okay, because we didnít have electricity until two weeks after we got windows. We didnít have running water or telephones. We boiled pots of bottled water on gas grills to make spaghetti, sustained on freeze dried muck provided by the National Guard, and we got creative when it came to personal hygiene and cleaning. We spent days clearing and throwing out our ruined treasures, peeling up salt-water soaked carpeting, asking our neighbors if the underwear we peeled off the side of the house was theirs and wondering how in the hell to get the remains of an aluminum shed out from under the windowless car. Not to mention trying to reconcile sights like THIS and THIS

It taught me that tragic events truly do bring out the best and worst in people. There was looting. And there were fly-by-night outfits that masqueraded as contractors, collected down payments for repairs, and then fled the city. But, there were selfless people, too.

Every Friday a friend of a friend drove for 4 hours in bumper to bumper traffic to come get me and a few other neighbors so that we could drive back north for four hours to spend a weekend doing laundry at his apartment complex, have a hot shower, and sleep without being feasted on by mosquitoes the whole time feeling guilty for our families still back in the trenches. Every Sunday he drove those same eight hours to bring us home. 

The Red Cross and the National Guard were fundamental in resorting some semblance of sanity amid a great deal of chaos. 

The Red Cross was there the day after the storm. I donít know HOW they got there but they were there. The Red Cross stayed far longer and did far more than any other organization. They never once turned anyone away or let anyone go without. There were a lot of people far worse off than me but it didnít matter if someone needed more or less. Everyone got as much as possible of whatever they needed.

If it werenít for the National Guard and the American Red Cross, Miami and Homestead would never have recovered. And if you doubt that itís because you werenít there in the two years that followed Hurricane Andrewís landfall. You didnít stand there amid rubble for months constantly fighting the desire to just get the hell out and start over somewhere else.

Over the years, I have volunteered at various Red Cross locations a few times a year and helped in whatever manner I could. In most recent years, this has included working the phones and soliciting donations as well as helping to organize small, local chapters. Let me tell you something folks, you couldnít PAY ME enough to work telemarketing. There is no salary high enough. 

But I do it gladly for the Red Cross, and Iíll do it whenever they ask.

Maybe it is because Fabian just ripped across Bermuda with power akin to Andrew and I know what those people are going through and am thankful the Red Cross is there for them. Maybe itís because Hurricane Isabel is currently on a path that makes the tiny hairs on the back of my neck twitch. Maybe it is because I am always aware that the Red Cross is getting messages to and from the soldiers that are facing danger in Iraq (where I donít feel they should be, but where they nonetheless, are sitting on perimeters doing their duty). Maybe it is because it is the second anniversary of 9/11 and remembering the utter helplessness I felt then, and how I was relieved to be able to volunteer at the Red Cross and feel useful in that aftermath. 

Iím asking anyone that reads my diary and enjoys it to donate whatever you feel you can to the Red Cross:

They are not picky about amounts. You can send a check for $5 and I promise you it will help someone. 

There is a lot of untrusting rhetoric in the world today about this non-profit organization and that charity bureau mismanaging funds. I know that all organizations have their human flaws.

But I promise you. The Red Cross is there when the days get long and dark and terrifying. They were there in the aftermath of the most personally terrifying experience of my life, and the excruciating rebuilding process that followed it.

And if it generates so much as a dime to their cause, I donít care how inappropriate or out of place it might seem on a phone sex slut site theyíve got this page in my journal. 


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