An escape to Florida fixes everything

Twenty years ago yesterday, I went to bed in my room with a window facing the front of the house and prepared to get some zzz’s before another day at the grind, otherwise known as the sixth grade.

A few hours later I was gently awakened by Mom, who told me that just to be safe we had better all gather in the hallway, away from any windows. “What’s going on?” I asked.

“There’s a hurricane and they are saying it could come this way,” she said. “Don’t worry – it’s going to be fine.”

The last thing I wanted to do was spend an entire night with my four other family members in a line down a hallway. My sleeping bag was directly underneath the attic fan (remember those?) and the wind was blowing so hard the fan kept opening and closing all night long. Sleep? As if!

The surprise about this storm is that we were living in Fort Mill, S.C., 200 miles inland. Many people fleeing the coast had stopped in Charlotte, 20 minutes away, as an evacuation destination. No one expected Hurricane Hugo to come this far.

But come this far it did, and it took its toll on our community. The roof of my middle school’s science wing was ripped off, and rain flooded in afterward. A huge tree fell into my grandparents’ bedroom. Had they been in bed my grandfather would have been hit. But they were hiding in their closet listening to the storm tear apart their house.

Our house sustained little damage – part of the fence fell in the backyard, but that was it. I spent the entire night worrying about my dogs, who were outside. Mom kept saying they were fine, as there was a good shelter underneath the screened porch where their doghouses were. She admitted later had she known just how bad it would be, they would have brought them in.

The crazy part was the next few days. We had no power, and no water. So we would walk down to the lake and fill up buckets of lake water in order to flush toilets. All of the contents of the refrigerator and freezer went into coolers. No one in town had power either. We went to church unshowered and in jeans – but everyone else was unshowered and in jeans too, so it was ok.

After a few days like this, with no end in sight, Dad turned to Mom and said, “Pack up the car. We’re going to Disney World.”

So our family, the hurricane victims from the town 200 miles inland, evacuated to Florida. How ironic is that? More specifically, to the greatest place on Earth – and my parents were the envy of all my friends, who thought it was so unfair. I remember sitting in a Waffle House on the way down, the first electricity and hot food we’d eaten in days, thinking my parents were the coolest people in the world.

We went on to enjoy that fantastic trip to Disney, the last one we’ve taken as a family (thus far, there are more kids in the family now!)

When we returned to Fort Mill and schools were back in and the power was back on, people asked Dad “Why Disney World of all places?”

He shrugged his shoulders and said “Because they had electricity!”