Monday, September 06, 2004

Hurricanes and the Human Spirit

Hurricane Frances brought back memories of a hurricane I survived in 1992. I moved to my first "real" job after graduating college and spending the summer enjoying my carefree days. I had just arrived on Kauai on Labor Day, moved into a rented room in a home, and started working that week becoming acclimated with my job. I was a young, inexperienced reporter still learning the ropes when someone mentioned a hurricane approaching the island. I was stunned. The day of the hurricane, ironically Sept. 11, 1992, my boss called to say some families would be setting up camp at the office because the building was concrete. Many of these people had survived a previous hurricane 10 years before that and knew it would be the best place to wait it out. That day and night turned into a bonding experience with people I had just met, and as the eye of Iniki passed over the island, I would be haunted for years by those category 5 winds.

My two subsequent years working on Kauai gave me a new understanding of the human spirit. I remember clearly the day after the hurricane hit, if you turned a blind eye to the mass devastation left by Iniki, you would think it was just another beautiful day in paradise. But you couldn't avoid the destruction left by the hurricane nor would you want to. My "induction" into the world of reporting the news went from learning to just jumping in. I am still amazed at the perserverence of people even at their lowest moments. There were families who lost everything and were literally rebuilding their lives... no mementos to even remember things like the birth of their children, the first picture taken at school, the weddings, the family parties. How do you restart your life and rebuild your past?

But they did. I saw people who had nothing share when they got something with others. I saw neighbors helping neighbors, businesses helping businesses, and even strangers helping strangers. Sometimes we lose faith in even our own humanity until something like this happens.

I left my job and the island two years later. In some respects, even today the island is still recovering. I would not give up one single day I lived there if I had to do it all over again.