40 years ago today, Hurricane Camille washed ashore on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

This event preceded another historical event, the day of my birth.

But anyway, back to Camille. At the time my family lived in Ocean Springs, a little town just across the bay from Biloxi. My mom was awaiting my arrival while trying to entertain my nine year old brother in the middle of a hot Mississippi August.

This was 1969, there was no cable TV, no cell phones, no 24 hour weather station. Everyone knew what was coming was bad, but unlike nowadays and the 24/7 coverage over Katrina, no one knew what was really swirling towards them.

About 36 hours before the storm hit, my Papaw drove down from Poplarville to bring my parents food and various supplies as it was pan-delirium at local stores and places were selling out. He also came to pick up my brother so he could stay farther inland with them and be safer. See, my parents couldn't leave because obviously my mom was ready to drop and her ob/gyn was 5 minutes away.

34 hours before the storm, my mom thought she went into labor. Nope. So the doctor sent her home. Then Camille came ashore. My parents and some neighbors huddled in the hallway of our home until it passed, then went out to assess the damages. No power, no phones, no nothing. And it was HAWWWT. Yes, that hot. My dad drug the mattresses out in the driveway and set up mosquito nets because the only air that was moving was a breeze off the gulf. Neighbors were BBQing up what meat they had in the freezer so it wouldn't go bad. It was basically a big block party, but not as much fun.

August 19th my mom went into labor. Along with another lady that lived three houses down from us. My dad loaded my mom and the lady, whose husband was a police officer and was working, into his car and away he went towards the hospital, dodging downed trees and power lines and debris of all kinds. At the intersection of our subdivision and Hwy 90, he was stopped by the Mississippi National Guard. The poor guardsman took one look in the car, said "oh shit" , and promptly escorted my dad to the hospital.

I was born in the early morning of August 20th, after the storm had come and gone and the hospital was filled with sick people. People lined the halls on gurneys, they had army tents outside set up as surgery wards, and there was general ickiness everywhere. My mom's doctor decreed that I was fine ( I should have asked for a second opinion) and promptly sent me home a whopping 4 hours after birth. The consensus was that all newborns would be better off at home , away from all of the sick people. So I spent my first few days of life sleeping in my crib outside in my yard. No wonder I hate camping now.

My Papaw drove down a few days later to check on us, as once again, no phones. He got to the Biloxi/Ocean Springs bridge, and well, it wasn't all there. He told the military guys what he needed and apparently flashed his Naval Commander status and the SeaBees got him across the bay and to our house. He met me, checked on my parents, and turned right around and went home, with a little help from the Seabees again.

Obviously I don't remember any of this as I was a NEWBORN, but I have heard stories from my family and seen many pictures. It was truly a disaster in so many ways, and I am thankful that my family came out unscathed.

It was the same with Katrina. I was 40 miles inland from landfall but was there for the whole thing, including the 125+ winds that hit our small town. Just like my brother did when he was 9 and I was on the way, I rode out Katrina in that basement in Poplarville with my dogs and my cell phone, which I used to talk to Gregory (who was in Philly and a HOT MESS about me being there) until the damn signal went away about an hour in. I'll never forget looking out my kitchen window 2 days later and seeing a car pull in my driveway, and there he was, coming to rescue me. Always my knight in shining armor that one.

But back to my point, with it being late in hurricane season and the activity heating up, it got me thinking about Camille. And Betsy, and Andrew, and Katrina, and all of the other storms that have left death, destruction and devastation in their wake. So today, wherever you are, say a little prayer for the folks that have been affected by them, and also for the folks that are in their path today.

This is a picture of the Hurricane Camille memorial that sits along Hwy 90 in Biloxi. The flagpole is bent because it was a flagpole that was bent during the actual storm.

This?? The same memorial after Katrina.


KBeau said...

Thanks for sharing that story. Our Sunday School teacher lived in Pascagoula and talks about Camille.

BTW, Happy Birthday.

So Not Wishy Washy said...

Whoa. Those pictures at the bottom made my stomach sink. Amazing.

I've said it more than once - and today's blog should bring it home - you are stronger than you know.

And Gregory driving down to rescue you? I am not surprised in the least. You are worth it!

Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...

Thank goodness your parents didn't name you Camille! That would have been horrible. :)

What an amazing story. Thank you so much for sharing it!

TexasRaceLady said...

Your story made me re-live Carla when it struck Houston so many years ago.

You started out strong, and you will stay strong.

Hang in there, girlfriend. The light is getting brighter at the end of that tunnel. And, no, it's not a train.


Miss Britt said...

I can't even IMAGINE.

Momza said...

Really enjoyed this post. Growing up in the South, I too have lived thru my share of wasn't until my folks left the south for the West that I realized how crazy the weather is down there.
I remember Camille (yep I'm older than you), and I recall my mom telling me to say a little prayer for the people in it's path.
And there you were...a Babe in your front yard.
Life is a little crazy, isn't it? You just never know.
Whether there come storms of thunder and lightening or storms of the soul--as my Baptist Aunt used to say, "Our God is an Awesome God". Some of us are caught up in the storms and leave this life and some of us are left to make sense of it all and keep moving.

habanerogal said...

Incredible beginning to your life story laughing at the image of your dad with the 2 women in labor in the car.

Lynda said...

What a great story and those pictures are amazing.