I have never been in a hurricane, never experienced a tornado and I have never experienced floodwaters in my home.
My heart goes out to those who live in Texas and are struggling with the continued fury of Hurricane Harvey.
Whereas I have never experienced these events, my sister, Sandy, a former Navy wife, lived through this and more. Her first years of marriage exposed her to tropical storms while stationed with her husband at Naval Air Station in Brunswick, Ga.
Her first home in Brunswick was a mobile home located off base. During the first year there, a tropical storm threatened the eastern coastline and she learned how her life would be impacted.
After receiving a call from her husband, Jim, to tell her he was being shipped out with the airplanes and helicopters to a safer location, he told her that she could come to the base, where he could get her a billet with the other dependents in an old World War 1 Zeppelin hangar.
Jim and Sandy’s landlords owned a two-story brick home, and she was invited to ride out the storm with them. Thus, her first experience was not as scary as it could have been, because her landlords were seasoned storm veterans.
Their next posting was to Norfolk, Va., and while here, their two sons were born.
The youngest, David, was barely a toddler when the family was relocated to Roosevelt Roads NAS in Puerto Rico.
Base housing at “Rosie Roads” was of concrete block construction and the windows of the house, with the exception of the living room, were fitted with metal louver storm windows.
The living room windows were wire-reinforced glass. During the intermittent power outages, this was the only source of light into the house.
On one occasion the men were shipped out with the aircraft to Memphis, Tenn. And safety. They returned to the base four days later.
Sandy and the little ones were left in their home, no electricity, pouring rain and no one to check on them.
While her husband was safe on the mainland, Sandy’s main responsibility was to stay strong for the children. She cooked on a Coleman stove using what canned goods she had.
There was no milk, and when I asked how the children reacted, she told me, “Oh, they played with their toys and cried, and I cried right along with them.”
Their next posting was Catania, Sicily. Here, she traded hurricanes and tropical storms for earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and numerous aftershocks.
At the time of their posting to Sicily, there was no available base housing and the family found an apartment on the third floor of an adobe-like building in the village of Mode St. Anastasia situated at the base of Mt. Etna, a living volcano.
Located about 30 miles from base, Mode’s population was 11,000-12,000, and when Mt. Etna, awakened the inhabitants were forced to flee to the upland fields.
More than once, while Jim was at the base, Sandy and the children evacuated with other city residents. One particular event was unforgettable.
The tremors had gone on for several days and Jim wasn’t convinced that it was serious enough to leave their apartment. Then, a pounding came on their front door, and when Sandy opened it, their landlady who spoke no English, made them understand they needed to leave right then. As Jim protested, the building shook and a picture hanging on the wall suddenly shifted to one side.
That was enough for Jim that they were in danger, and the family spent the next three days with other Mode residents in the upland fields.