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Hurricane Irma 25 Years Later

If you live in Miami-Dade, Broward or Palm Beach County, take note…we have just witnessed a miracle! Now, I am not pushing any religious views. I believe everyone is entitled to his/her own spiritual beliefs…as long as those beliefs do not include forcing them on others, and that the core of one’s beliefs is the same message…do good, be good… So that said, Saturday through Sunday in South Florida was a miracle.

That Hurricane Irma blew her winds west of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach truly saved the catastrophic event forecasted by my new idols (with help from NOAA)…Betty Davis (though I truly loved that lady before…she knows her stuff and, even after maybe 4 days on air…still looked like she walked off a page of a fashion magazine), and all of the other meteorologists , anchors and reporters who nearly blew away with their live broadcasts, is nothing short of a miracle.

I feel I say this as somewhat of an authority, having lived my entire life (save for that 3 year stint in Atlanta when I attended Emory Law School), which, I shudder to say, dates back to the late 50s. I date back to those days when Florida cracker box homes warded off the gale force winds with X-shaped masking take across our windows, when EVERYBODY lost their electricity in a hurricane (which, parenthetically, “everybody” was less than the reported 1.6 million that lost power with Hurricane Irma…this used to be a very small place) , and when my dad, Leonard Vova, an electrical contractor, had a direct, back line phone number to FPL, so we usually had our electric restored before most other people.

So what now? Our neighbors to the south in the Keys met with total devastation. Our neighbors to the west met a similar fate. And even many of those in the tri-county area did not bid adieu to Irma without lasting damages. I remember feeling blessed 25 years ago when Hurricane Andrew was barreling down on South Florida, and was “supposed” to make a direct hit on Ft. Lauderdale. My husband and I were renting a house just north of Sunrise Boulevard, directly on the water. Across the street was the Intracoastal. My husband’s business was the old Army Navy that was on Broward Boulevard and NW 7th Avenue. And, lest I leave this out, I was seven months pregnant with our first child. That Sunday afternoon I thought everything we had would be gone.

As I woke up Monday morning, having spent the night with my parents in Boca Raton, (where we did not even lose power) and saw those first aerial view of South Dade, I knew I had to do something….so a few days later I found myself with four other attorneys, down in Homestead, in the parking lot of a destroyed Publix strip center, helping folks who had lost virtually everything, get information on filing insurance claims, helping them prepare powers of attorney to send their children to a distant relative away from the devastation, and answering whatever question we could. In between, my colleagues helped unload trucks full of water and food. Much as I wanted to help there too, I thought lifting heavy packages was not the best idea given that I was in my last trimester of pregnancy.

Over the years, when natural disasters have occurred, I think back to that time as one of the most rewarding moments in my 33 years of practicing law. Now, the opportunity presents itself again. Things have changed somewhat….I have clientswho need my legal assistance and I still have to make sure their cases are handled. I will try to see where my legal knowledge can be applied to help. And I have a law clerk…a recent law school graduate…so once we contact the Florida Bar and see where her efforts will best be used…she’ll be out in the trenches…trying to help some folks. After all, she was there 25 years ago when her mom tried to do the same thing.

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