Sunday, September 21, 2014

25 Years Ago Today...

...Mother Nature proved that hurricanes DO NOT stick to coastlines.  

25 years ago today, the gentleman in this photo asked if I could come across the street and help answer phones.  I knew him from years before, when I was a Radio Dispatcher for the State Police and he was a Sheriff's Deputy. I remember him saying, "You can handle telephones, the public and work well under pressure.  I could use that right now."    It was the first week after his secretary's husband had been transferred and he was the only one in the department we then called Civil Defense.  I received permission to assist this other county government department and went to help man the phones at 10:00 a.m. that Thursday morning.  There were 3 old fashion phones, one line each, with no hold button.  The head of Maintenance and I answered them for the first couple of hours until he and the Civil Defense head had to leave for a while.  At the height of the storm, you had to put your hand on top of the phone to know which one was ringing.  After a while, they all rang at the same time anyway.  I began answering one, asking the person to hold on, answered the second, then asked both parties if they could hear me.  If they wanted basic info, I told them at the same time.  If one had an emergency, the other caller graciously sat through a one sided conversation until it was his/her turn.  This went on for hours.

The next thing I knew, it was Friday morning and Hurricane Hugo had blown through, turning my hometown into a photo copy of a war zone.

Months later, I witnessed the oddest thing.  People jumped when the wind picked up or turned pale if it howled around a corner prior to a thunderstorm.  It took me a while to put two and two together and understand their reactions were connected to memories of Hugo.  So why didn't it bother me? After all, at one point I was the lone female in that room, surrounded by law enforcement as we all dealt with something none of us had ever experienced.  I was torn because Hubby was at home and had begged me to stay put because I was in probably the safest place in the County. I can still hear Maj. Holloway of the National Guard reporting for duty in a voice so deep it came from the bottom of his boots...and it was oddly comforting.  Why wasn't I as shell shocked as my community?

Civil Defense  was in the basement of the Courthouse.  Until the height of the storm, when wind howled around the building for two minutes, we never heard a sound.


Ponita in Real Life said...

Yes, being in the basement was probably the best place to be. And I'm betting that it was a larger building, made of brick? Do many houses there have basements? I know when I lived in TX and CA, not many did, especially TX where the water table is only about 3 feet down.

I seem to recall reading about Hugo in the paper, and seeing it on the news. Crazy how it kept up strength and speed when it made landfall! I'm just glad you could help out, and that you and Hubby came through okay.

You don't need that shellshocked feeling!

hope said...

Yep, it was actually set up as a Bomb Shelter in the 1950s! :) Most homes here don't have a basement because we're too close to sea level. The upper part of the state, with mountains, they have basements.

I remember getting agitated with a t.v. reporter on Day 3 when he kept talking about how bad Charleston had it. I finally snapped, "The only difference between here and Charleston is the Atlantic Ocean!" We got coverage after that.