by k.t. Frankovich
originally published in Nexus Magazine http://www.kt.cjb.net/
The largest natural disaster ever recorded in the history of the United States was Hurricane Andrew, which struck South Dade, Florida, as midnight turned the clock into August 24, 1992. Contrary to what the American news media broadcast across the United States and throughout Europe, the first outer wall of winds unexpectedly slammed into South Dade packing 214+ mph winds, which quickly escalated to 350+ mph. Most of the 414,151 residents living in the danger zone were asleep when the first outer wall of winds struck. Thousands of them lost their lives for no one in South Dade had been evacuated or even advised to evacuate. Instead, residents had been repeatedly informed by local news media that South Dade should expect to experience "50 mph winds."
By 11:00 A.M. the following morning, 8,230 mobile homes
had vanished off the face of the earth, along with 9,140 apartments. The
Hiroshima horror was beyond catastrophic. Entire families perished in ways too
horrifying to describe. The stench of death had already begun to saturate
miles-and-miles of the massive devastation, reeking the hot humid air with foul
My son and I had the television on, hoping to catch an
updated report on the hurricane, when the screen suddenly went blank with a loud
warning signal. Before we knew it, a panic stricken voice began to announce:
Our tiny 'pre-fab' apartment, which was nothing more than a glorified mobile home, had been constructed to withstand maximum wind speeds of 90 mph. The blood curdling announcement gripped us both. Paralyzed by sheer human terror, our bulging eyes stayed glued to the television, as the voice continued.
"All South Dade residents are advised to stay put! Do not attempt to leave the area!"
Within seconds, we actually heard Hurricane Andrew bearing down on us! Slamming into us with all the force of a speeding locomotive! The horrendous wall of winds crashing against our tiny apartment like an exploding bomb!
Glasses flew off the kitchen counter, shattering onto the quaking floor! Hanging pictures plunged straight down the walls toward the ground! The huge hanging mirror crashed on top of the television set, spraying the living room with shattered glass! The entire apartment resembled a rickety old train, shaking fiercely out of control, as it rumbled down the railroad track! The screeching winds quickly transformed into the piercing, monotone 'hum' of a jet engine! Sounding as if it had sucked us inside! So deafening, all other noises ceased to exist. It felt like a monstrous earthquake-and-tornado hitting at the same time!
Before either one of us could react, the metal front door
of our apartment began to steadily peel downward towards the floor, like a wet
piece of limp paper. Then, the voracious jaws of Andrew attacked for the final
kill. A mega-giant, two-story tall, solid concrete, transformer pole with
electrical cables attached, torpedoed right through our living room wall and
roof! Exploding the entire building on impact!
There isn't a person on the face of this earth who will ever convince me that Hurricane Andrew was a 'hurricane' by any sense of the definition. Just ask any survivor of Andrew what the six-and-a-half hour siege was like and the answer will always be the same. "We didn't have any prior warning. We heard Hurricane Andrew suddenly bearing down on us like a speeding locomotive." The same-exact description survivors of monstrous F-5 tornadoes (packing winds of 350+ mph) describe. The only difference being that tornadoes only strike for seconds, whereas Hurricane Andrew struck and stayed for hours on end.
The injuries of those who survived were mind boggling. I had a broken jaw with eight teeth knocked out. Huge shards of glass impaled my body so deeply, they were impossible to remove without the aid of a scalpel. My head injuries were so severe it permanently affected my eyesight.
But I was only one amongst thousands of severely injured victims who struggled to survive the aftermath. For ten long days, we were roped-off from the outside world by United States military forces, leaving us stranded with no food, no water, no medical supplies or shelter. Suffering from severe shell-shock, we waited and waited for rescue teams to arrive but that just never happened. None of the injured in the roped-off areas were ever rescued from the devastation. It was the worst gut-wrenching betrayal I have ever experienced. I saw grown men lying on the ground in the fetal position, moaning and groaning pathetically, as they tried to hug and rock themselves.
My son was amongst them.
Don't get me wrong, United States military forces were indeed present in the roped-off areas within hours of Andrew ending. But they were not there to help survivors. The National Guard, along with the Coast Guard, the Army, F.E.M.A., Metro-Dade Police, State Police and local police, removed dead bodies and body-parts as quickly as possible, during those first ten days of the aftermath. Horrified survivors watched as both uniformed and civilian clothed men searched the rubble and filled body bags. After which, the body bags were stacked in military vehicles or huge refrigerator trucks normally used to transport food, only to drive off and leave the stranded injured to fend for themselves. Not until I managed to escape the aftermath, did I discover the thermo-king sections of these same refrigerator trucks jammed packed with wall-to-wall body bags, subsequently ended up being stored at Card Sound Navy Base, located in an isolated area just above the Florida Keys. The inside temperatures kept cool by portable generators until the bodies were either incinerated or just plain dumped into huge open grave pits.
Those working the body-pick-up-operation were forced to take what is known as "The Oath of Sworn Secrecy," strictly enforced by the government. Many of whom plunged into shock once exposed to the ghastly devastation and countless mutilated bodies. The horrors were way beyond human comprehension. I can vouch for this when I accidentally stepped on the severed hand of a young child, while initially crawling out of the debris. Only to witness shortly thereafter, two dead teenagers and the decapitated body of a baby girl.
Fighting mental shock became such a big problem for the body-pick-up teams that a special group of psychiatrists had to be brought in to help them cope with it. I believe this in itself was the reason 'why' many who worked on the body collection didn't comprehend the tragic consequences this would inevitably lead to in the future. Not only were the survivors of Hurricane Andrew and the rest of the American peoples betrayed by their own government, but in addition, the betrayal extended its ugly fist into foreign countries. For at the time Hurricane Andrew struck, South Dade was inhabited by a large population of Mexican illegals. The United States Department of Immigration was fully aware of their presence but quietly turned their backs on the situation, knowing full well that South Dade farmers couldn't afford to harvest their crops without the help of the Mexican illegals. As a matter of fact, the heavily populated migrant camps resided at the edge of the Florida Everglades. They vanished without a trace during that fated night. Many bodies were found way out in the Everglades.
When I lectured at the Clearwater Convention held in Florida, during the year 1999, a man in the audience stood up and introduced himself as Chief Petty Officer Roy Howard. He proceeded to address the entire audience with this exact statement, which is now a matter of public record. "Just for your information I was called up to active duty after Hurricane Andrew went through South Dade County. I spent 9 weeks down there. Now I will certify for the benefit of our audience here that the death figures that were officially published are totally inaccurate. According to the information which I received from my own sources within the National Guard, the figure I was quoted when I was down there was 5,280 something. And they were quietly disposed of in incinerators that were hurriedly put together by both the National Guard and F.E.M.A."...
As the Chief Petty Officer stated, "5,280 something bodies" were confiscated by the United States National Guard. In addition to this, the Coast Guard independently confiscated "1,500 bodies" from the lakes and surrounding waters. Neither one of these figures embraces the number of dead bodies confiscated by other branches of federal and state government directly involved in the body-pick-up operation. This leaves the number of dead confiscated by various U.S. authorities in South Dade still unknown. The total number who died during Hurricane Andrew obviously is staggering. However, the population of the twenty-one communities annihilated by Andrew's eye-wall, had been officially recorded (just before Andrew struck), as "415,151" by the Dade County Census Bureau.
Bodies of human beings confiscated and disposed of like rubbish, as if their lives had no more worth or meaning than a piece of discarded litter. It's horrifying to suddenly be confronted by the same kind of atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis during this day and age. Once again repeating history, as a master-minded cover-up was dutifully carried out by armed military forces, right smack in the midst of horrendous human suffering.
To complete this historical comparison, in the same way many residents who lived near Nazi concentration camps were unaware, or in denial, of the atrocities close by, so too were many residents located just outside the catastrophic devastation left behind by Andrew's eye-wall.
So what actually did take place when Andrew survivors tried to get help from those collecting dead bodies in the aftermath? Well, I for one can give a firsthand account. About the third day into the aftermath, a long line of police cars cautiously drove into my area during the late afternoon. We had not had contact with any other people from outside the devastation up until this point. There were approximately 12 to 15 police cars comprising this caravan, each marked from different locations throughout the state. Each car was driven by a man dressed in a dark police uniform and had three other plain-clothed men riding as passengers, making a total of four men in each vehicle.
Someone from our group spotted the caravan and ran to get me, knowing that I had been badly injured and that I urgently needed emergency medical help. My twenty-five-year old son and one other adult male survivor, helped escort me to the caravan. We hurried toward the lead car. It stopped moving when we approached the driver's side. The officer sitting behind the wheel rolled down the window. For a few moments he rudely ignored us, at one point giving us an impatient look of disgust.
This is the exact conversation and course of events that took place.
"Please sir, I need medical help," I begged, barely able to speak.
The officer sitting behind the wheel sighed heavily. He turned his head away from me and gazed out his windshield. The other three men in the car quietly looked at me.
"Sir, please, I need to get to a hospital!..." I begged frantically.
The officer took his time about reaching over to turn off the engine. With another sigh, he slowly opened the door and climbed out. He then proceeded to close the door and stood there with his legs spread astride.
"Lady, do me a favor," he answered. "Find yourself a piece of paper and a pencil. Write down your name and social security number next to the telephone number of your nearest living relative. Tuck the piece of paper in your pocket so tomorrow when I find your body, I'll know who to contact."
"No!... No!" I cried out. "You don't understand. I need to get to a hospital. I've been badly injured."
"No! You're the one who doesn't understand," he hissed back. With that, he reached over to his holster and took out his gun. He grabbed me, forcing me up against the side of the car, and proceeded to put the barrel of the gun against my temple. I heard the hammer cock.
From the position he had pushed me into, I could see directly into the car. The man sitting in the front passenger seat looked away from me immediately, glancing down at the floor. The two passengers in the back seat turned their heads quickly, staring out the window on the opposite side of the car.
My son and the other survivor watched as the officer had pulled back the hammer on the gun. So shocked out of their minds by what they were witnessing, neither one could move!
"You don't belong here!" the officer growled, pressing the
barrel into the side of my head. "Now you get the hell outta here before I blow
away your ass!" He shoved my face into the car window and then released me.
"I'll shoot your damn asses!" the officer's voice rang out.
When Hurricane Andrew slammed into South Dade, the State Attorney of Florida was none other than Janet Reno. Her office located at the Dade County Courthouse in the City of Miami. The President of the United States was former President Bush, and the Vice-President was Dan Quayle. Bill Clinton was running for President, with Al Gore running for Vice-President.
Senator Bob Graham held office and the late Lawton Chiles was Governor of Florida. His successor turned out to be Jeb Bush, the current Governor of Florida, who ironically enough is former President Bush's son. His other son, the 'then' Governor George W. Bush of Texas, became the future "self-selected" President of the United States.
Curious how the United States Government evacuated Homestead Air Force base just before Hurricane Andrew struck, yet never released the information to the civilians of South Dade.
"This is worse than anything we saw in Saudi," said the Master Sgt. Lester Richardson one week into the aftermath, who had spent six months in the Middle East during Operation Desert Storm. "These people need a miracle…"
The survivors did need "a miracle" but what we got instead didn't resemble anything near it. While we remained roped off from the outside world by Metro Dade Police and the military, the news media reported grossly understated information from the first day onward. On August 24, 1992, the morning Hurricane Andrew ended, the Miami Herald's headlines broke with: Andrew Hits Hardest in South Dade. Five thousand people were left homeless by the storm, Metro Dade Police Director announced. They'll be moved into shelters in North Dade.
August 25, 1992, Miami Herald's headlines read: Destruction at Dawn. Among worst hit in the Country Walk area of South Dade, few homes escaped at least minor damage and many were utterly destroyed. 10 killed in Dade.
August 27, 1992, Miami Herald's headlines read: The Toll Rises. 22 dead as the search continues. 63,000 homes destroyed. 175,000 homeless. 1 million without power.
August 28, 1992, Miami Herald's headlines read: WE NEED HELP! Relief effort collapsing due to United States inaction, Metro charges. Aid us now or more will die, Feds told. As Dade County's hurricane relief effort neared collapse Thursday, more than 1,500 airborne U.S. soldiers were ordered into the county to cope with what is now being called the worst natural disaster in the United States history. The move came after a day of bitter snipping among agencies that share responsibility for the relief effort.
United States Aid Official, Wallace Stickler, stated, "Andrew has caused more destruction and affected more people than any disaster America has ever had."
Dade County's Emergency Director pleaded for federal help, one angry voice among many that spoke in the dire terms of needs unmet. Frustrated to the point of tears, Kate Hale said, the relief project was on the brink of collapse, a victim of incompetence and political games.
"Where the hell is the cavalry on this one? We need food! We need water! We need people! If we do not get more food into the south end [South Dade] in a very short period of time, we are going to have more casualties!"
"We have a catastrophic disaster," Hale went on to say. "We are hours away from more casualties. We are essentially the walking wounded. We have appealed through the State to the Federal Government. We've had a lot of people down here for press conferences. But Dade County is on its own. Dade County is being caught in the middle of something and we are being victimized."
"Quit playing like a bunch of kids and get us aid! Sort out your political games afterward!"
On the same day Hale made the desperate plea, Miami Herald Staff Writers, Martin Merzer and Tom Fiedler, wrote: The question echoed through the debris Thursday: If we can do it for Bangladesh, for the Philippines, for the Kurds of northern Iraq, why in God's name can't we deliver basic necessities of life to the ravaged population of our own Gold Coast?
The short answer: Because no single person or agency is in charge.
The result: A plane load of food and equipment is still a rarity. Instead of delivering goods, helicopter pilots shuttle government officials who just sit idle. Metro police turn away individuals trying to bring in food or water to a barren South Dade.
August 29, 1992, six days into the aftermath, the Miami Herald read: Problems Plague Red Cross. The man on the phone wanted to donate 100 electric generators, extension cords and enough tools to build a small subdivision. But the operator who took his call at the Red Cross Command Center in Miami had no idea what to do with the offer.
"We get a call, we take a message, we give it to somebody, who signs it to somebody else," said the operator, Melitta de Liefd. "We have no idea what happens to it. The whole place is being run by senior citizens and college kids."
Welcome to Red Cross headquarters - where the brains of Dade County rescue effort have been knocked almost unconscious most of the week. Callers offering services and supplies are put on hold. Others can't get through at all. The hurt and suffering plead for help over ham radio.
August 29, 1992, one full week after Hurricane Andrew struck, the Sun-Sentinel reported "250,000 people homeless in South Dade."
Of course, the rather 'insignificant' incident resulting from Andrew's winds bombarding Turkey Point Nuclear Plant, wasn't aired by the news media either nationally or abroad:
Miami Herald/Tom Dubouq, September 5, 1992: "Demolition crews toppled a 400 foot smokestack at Turkey Point [nuclear] power plant [owned by Florida Power and Light Company] Friday, September 4, 1992. The stack, which had a 200 foot gaping crack, was dropped without a hitch, a Florida Power and Light spokesperson said. The other smokestack at the plant will be salvaged. Turkey Point will be shut down for several months while repairs are made. The cost will exceed 90 million [dollars] according to an initial damage report… When Turkey Point was built in the 1960's, its main structures were designed to withstand 235 mph winds. Hurricane Andrew was clocked at 164 mph at the plant. Florida Power and Light officials don't know why the smokestack didn't hold up."
One-hundred-million dollars worth of damage resulted from the nuclear power plant's smokestack having been cracked wide open. The nuclear plant itself, situated approximately 15 miles north-east of where I lived. How well I recall the leaflets circulated several months before Andrew struck, advising all residents within a "thirty-five mile radius" of Turkey Point Nuclear Plant, to be aware of the potential hazards involved if an event such as a natural disaster or unexpected catastrophe happened. Such a grim reminder of the Chernobyl tragedy.
Could it be more than a coincidence that within 24 hours of Hurricane Andrew ending, all twelve survivors in my little group, including our animals, broke out in big raw oozing sores, which itched and burned at the same time? We suffered horrible headaches, making us so nauseous we had the dry heaves. And, our stomachs cramped badly from sudden onsets of diarrhea. These symptoms lasted well over three months and, within a relatively short period of time, each one of our surviving animals died from cancer.
Speaking of coincidence, I often wonder what kind of a coincidence is it that the National Hurricane Bureau is responsible for reporting to the United States Department of Commerce? Especially considering that during the year 1992, South Florida did 31 billion dollars worth of tourism trade. Hurricane Andrew had barely left Florida heading for the State of Louisiana, when the Division of Tourism placed a $47,000 advertisement in the magazine called USA TODAY. "Florida, we're still open," it read.
"Most people have very short memories. We're all sort of banking on that," said Donal Dermody, Director of the Nova University Center for Hospitality Management.
Kind of puts a big damper on belief in the human race.
Hide the truth, ignore the suffering, do it for a dollar!
"Come here!" he whispered excitedly.
I leaned down close to him. "What's the matter?"
"Listen!" he paused to look around nervously. "You've got to get the hell outta here now!"
"Why?" I asked puzzled by his behavior.
"I haven't got time to explain," he whispered. "But I just came from the National Hurricane Bureau in the Gables. Gotta friend of mine who works over there. Big wig, know what I mean?"
"Yeah..." I nodded.
"Well, this isn't for public information, if you get my drift," he went on rapidly. "But the National Hurricane Bureau has known all along that Hurricane Andrew is going to slam into South Dade! They're telling the public it's going to come in at Palm Beach because they want Miami Beach evacuated, and there aren't enough shelters for South Dade residents to evacuate too. They don't wanna cause panic. So they're keeping quiet. We're all a bunch of God-damn-sitting ducks! You got to get the hell outta here! This is a killer hurricane! Nobody's ever seen anything like this before!"
"Holy shit!" I exclaimed, shocked out of my mind. "You mean Andrew's coming over South Dade?"
"Damn straight! That's exactly what I mean! They figure the eye of the storm is coming right in over us! Those fellas at the National Hurricane Bureau have known it all along! I'm gettin the hell outta here now! Shit man, this thing is a killer hurricane! Listen, I gotta run! Get your son and get the hell out now! You ain't gonna have a shot in hell once it hits!"
I ran into the apartment and called my son at work, begging him to come home so we could get out. I had no reason to disbelieve anything I had just heard. I knew my neighbor well enough to know he wouldn't fabricate anything like this! So I related the entire conversation to my son. My son was stunned! He said he would leave work within a few minutes but as the minutes ticked on, they dragged into hours. One catastrophe after another seemed to crash down on him, until finally it was just too late. By the time he got home it was almost midnight. Within minutes of his arrival, Andrew slammed into us full force.
Another immediate course of action I took after hearing the terrifying warning from my neighbor was to phone the local CBS television station located in Miami. I called three separate times. Each time, my call went directly into the local news broadcast room of meteorologist Bryan Norcross. Although I never spoke to Norcross directly, I did manage to speak to three separate individuals working in the broadcast room. I specifically stated, "I live in South Dade, adjacent to Metrozoo and within walking distance of Country Walk, in a pre-fab apartment that is constructed to withstand up to 90 mph winds. Should I evacuate?" All three individuals advised and reassured me that I was situated in a safe area. There definitely wasn't need for me to take any evacuation measures.
It's not easy dealing with the anguish I feel because of all the perpetrated lies. So much suffering resulted. It took three-and-a-half weeks before my son and I managed to escape the devastation on our own. Homeless and penniless, with no insurance to cover our losses, we slowly made our way north toward Broward County. Our only possessions being the clothes on our backs and a demolished van. The long agonizing journey turned out to be another nightmare from hell.
Over 4,000 people were officially listed as Missing in
Andrew when we parted South Dade. I had lost twenty-three pounds during those
wretched weeks of being trapped in the devastation and still had not received
any medical attention. Little did I realize it would take another three weeks
before a doctor would even agree to see me without any money or identification.
By then, six weeks had passed since I had been injured. Most of my teeth had
turned a putrid gray color because the nerves had died as a result of fierce
blows to my head, complicated by my broken jaw. The final heartbreak came when
doctors discovered the optic nerve in both my eyes had begun to die off. Which
meant, because of the head injuries, I was going blind.
Maybe it's just me, but I honestly thought the world learned a lesson from the Nuremberg trials in Germany.
"Evil can only be defined as absence of empathy..."
SIMILARITIES IN TURKEY
On June 20, 2000, I flew to Istanbul Turkey, where I lectured at a major international conference. While visiting Turkey, I was asked if there was anything I specifically wished to do or see. My simple answer came very naturally. "Yes, I would like to visit the areas that were devastated by the earthquakes last August and November. And, spend time with the survivors."
The following day my simple wish was granted. I was graciously escorted by a medical doctor who had unselfishly devoted many hours of practice in the devastated regions. When he informed me that 20,000+ died in August, 1999, during the Izmit earthquake, and another 20,000+ died in November, during the Bolu earthquake, I was stunned. This was not what the news media had reported.
"Are you saying that between the two earthquakes last year, over 40,000 people died?" I asked.
His eyes filled with tears. "Yes," he nodded sadly. "Over 40,000 people perished between the two disasters."
The horrendous destruction I saw matched every word he
stated. I walked over areas where the earth had opened up, swallowing entire
buildings before closing back up again, like a giant white shark gulping down
its prey. I understood when weeping survivors squeezed my hand tightly, too
overcome by grief to explain how they never found the bodies of their loved
ones. Long pauses of silence took over when tears replaced words.
I often wonder, now that I've returned back home, how those Turkish survivors weathered the 115 degree temperatures of July, since their temporary housing lacked proper insulation and air-conditioning. As the month of August began to unfold, torrential rains bombarded the small country, bringing a new kind of disaster, flash flooding.
How many lives were lost to this disaster?
The most pathetic survivors of all are children. Like the children who survived Hurricane Andrew, I witnessed many Turkish children who could no longer smile or play. Shell-shock has very pronounced effects on the young. Often, they stop communicating altogether.
One little girl in particular caught my attention. Her arm had been badly injured, twisted into a permanent position of deformity. She stood very still, holding her hair in her good hand, never moving or showing any signs of emotion.
"She needs medical attention," I said to the doctor. "Yes," he agreed, "a lot of the young survivors desperately need medical attention." His answer puzzled me. "But I thought financial aid was donated from foreign countries."
"Yes," he nodded, "But most of the money ended up in the pockets of government officials. It never reached the survivors."
How well I knew what that meant. How well indeed.
After pausing he added, "When the earthquakes struck, one
foreign country offered to construct a hospital at the devastated site. But
because of political differences, our government refused the offer."
"Evil can only be defined as absence of empathy..."