Adios Miami/Flood of 2005

Hey everyone!

I just finished writing everyone a lovely email, but then the computer crashed…URRRG anyway…

We drove back down to Miami and saw all the damage progress the further south we got. Trees that were over 10ft in diameter were completely uprooted, roofs/signs/awnings were torn up, and power lines were down. It is hard to imagine that this was only a type 3 hurricane.

After arriving, we went straight to work. We went to distribution sites and helped hand out ice, water, and food. We were guarded by the national guard, and things ran pretty smoothly. It was both emotionally and physically tiring. It was hard to determine what families deserved what, and whether people were being truthful when they told us they had 10 kids at home. An interesting conversation I had with one man was:

Man: “Can I get more food and water for the 3 old ladies I have at home?” 
Me: “I’m sorry sir, but we are only allowed to give supplies for people that are here.” 
Man: “But all 6 of the old ladies are in wheelchairs.” 
Me: “6? all 6?” 
Man: “Yeah…all 6 are in wheelchairs, and the other 2 have heart problems.”

Instances like these were easy to figure out whether they were being truthful, however other times were a lot more difficult. It was very gratifying to give the deserving victims their necessities. There is a very strong sense of community within Miami, and it was very uplifting to see everyone taking care of their neighbors and elderly. We got to do distribution at the Orange Bowl. After hours we snuck in and played ultimate frisbee on the field for PT, it was amazing!

After doing distribution we began work on our original project on Virginia Key. The project consisted of weeding out exotic species and saving the native endangered plant species. In the afternoon we worked in the plant nursery. The job was not very fun, and VERY HOT. Luckly, we worked on a beach, so during our lunch breaks, we swam in the ocean.

Since we still didn’t have power, we took showers at City Hall and charged all of our cell phones there. 3 nights before we left, our landlord brought us a generator for power, so we had limited power the last three nights.

So here is our really exciting adventure on Monday night. Since we had a generator we decided to watch a movie. My team decided upon The Shining. You all know how much I LOVE horror movies…I spent about 75% of the movie with my head buried in my teammates arm screaming. Needless to say, I was kind of on edge. Most of the team went to bed having already seen the movie so there were just 4 of us awake. The movie was about to be over when we heard an explosion from the kitchen. My immediate reaction is to hit the floor thinking that someone is shooting at us because of the neighborhood we are in. Jen apparently had the same idea because she joined me there (I don’t know when I realized it was a bad neighborhood, it could have been when we were walking home and a police car drove up to us and said, “You whiteys are going the wrong way, you are about to get shot or robbed,” or maybe it was what appeared to be an episode of Cops across the street the night earlier which culminated in 2 of our neighbors being dragged out of their houses and shoved into cop cars).

We then see smoke coming out of the kitchen and discover that it was not a gunshot, but the condensed milk cans that our team leader was boiling down. Apparently the water had evaporated, and the cans exploded coating every single surface, including the ceiling in a thick gooey caramel. We cleaned it up and went to bed around 1 AM.

I was having a very pleasant dream about being on a boat when I was awoken at 3 by my teamate Meredith yelling, “Get up and grab your stuff, we are flooding.” I reached down and felt water and soon discovered the reason for my dream, my air mattress was floating on about 3 inches of water. I then realized, that since there was no shelving in the house, everything I owned was now drenched in the flood including my books, camera, and iPod. We quickly got up and moved everything out of the house. We then swept out all the water after shutting the water off (a pipe had burst). By this time it was 5 AM and we all collapsed on our air mattresses in our front yard and fell asleep. I was awoken by an eerie feeling. I looked up, and there was a lady staring down at me, still dazed, I said somthing like “Good morning” or “Hello.” She startled, yelled, and ran away. It occured to us how strange it must look to everyone in the neighborhood. 11 people sleeping in their front yard, with the entire contents of the house strewn across the yard. Our cloths were hanging on trees and fences, and books were drying on window sills. Our neighbors already thought we were some kind of experiment (we were asked if it was some government experiment to move 11 white kids into the ghetto), and now I think their suspicions were confirmed. We spent the rest of the day doing laundry and trying to salvage/access the damage.

Wednesday was our last day on Virginia Key. We finally drove home to Charleston where there is power, and good food (never thought I would think that the galley food is good…) I also have my room to myself because my roommate and suite mates are still on spike!

I hope everyone is going well! I miss you!

Please keep writing and or sending my snail mail!

Alena Rosen 
Americorps NCCC/Class XII, Gold 5 
2231 South Hobson 
Charleston, SC 29405