I heard a true and tragic story from a good friend at a festive Friday night gathering.

My friend was not aware that I’d bought a place on the island. I told her my East End address.

She shared that her mother-and-law (MIL) grew up in a house that survived the 1900 Storm on 14th & M. The house is still standing. Her MIL lived a long life but died in her 90’s. This is part of the story:

During the epic 1900 Storm, her MIL had been tied to the rafters to ride out the storm. Obviously, she survived or she would not have lived to create offspring.

She was 3 years old and her sister, who was 4, was also tied up there. They both survived the onslaught of the wind and water.  A few weeks later, her sister died of cholera.

I drove along Avenue M. I tried to remember which address she had said was the one for the house.

The house I live in is one-half a block closer to the Gulf. Now, there is a Seawall to protect the island.  In 1900, there was no Seawall, and after the 1900 Storm, a large part of the island’s elevation was raised. Over 8,000 human beings had died. It was a true disaster.

My mind keeps spinning back to the scene requiring parents to tie two little girls to rafters. Were they seated back to back on the rafter, to so they could be supportive of each other, literally and figuratively?

Do you have them lie down on the rafter, face-up; to keep their noses as far out of the water for as long as possible? Do you let them lie down on their tummies so they can hug the rafter and see each other and possibly see what is happening below them? Everything I imagine makes my mind cringe and my heart mourn. The scene haunts me.

I have a three and a half year old grandson and an almost 4 year old granddaughter. (Cousins) I can only imagine how they would shut down if I told them I was going to have to tie them up to save their lives.

I know how fearful I myself felt as a 4 year old on July 25, 1959 during Hurricane Debbie.  Tropical storms cause the barometric pressure to fall. This drop can cause pregnant women go into labor.

My mom went into labor and had to ride off to the hospital in a fire truck. The storm water had become too deep to drive a car through. That image is still seared in my memory, as clear as if it were yesterday.

I felt horribly anxious watching her ride away, leaving me behind.  My grandpa was with me but kids during storms are already stressed.  I can’t imagine how I would feel if I had been tied up to the rafters.

Today, we don’t have to wait to evacuate. Pay attention to the forecast. Take precautionary measures.

Understand that the truly tragic part of this 1900 Storm story is that the sister dies of Cholera after living through the hurricane. Staying out of harm’s way after a storm passes, proves to be equally important.

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