The first hurricane I remember was Hurricane Camille. She destroyed the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the summer of 1969 and I was nine years old.
She hit in the darkness and I remember Daddy and Mama taking the mattresses off Ramona’s and my twin beds and placing them end to end in the hallway. Ramona clung to Mama on one mattress and I lay with Daddy on the other. We had our heads in the hall closets in case the roof caved.
We didn’t sleep that night. The wind howled and rattled the wood-framed windows so violently I feared they’d break. The large pecan trees outside bent and thrashed in the 100+ mph wind. Limbs scaped the house and sounded like fingernails scratching a chalkboard. Pecans pelted the roof sounding like machine gun fire. It was the first time I feared the weather.
The damage we had was massive and we were 100 miles inland of the coast. Some days after the storm, we made our way to the coast to see the blight for ourselves. Words can not describe it. Massive ships tossed like Lincoln Logs onto the shore. Telephone poles snapped like toothpicks. Rotten fish and debris piled along the highway.
These images I recall from Camille I can never unsee. Sounds I heard I can not unhear. Stories I overheard I can never forget. Stories like the one about the people who remained on the coast during the hurricane and held a hurricane party. Not only were their bodies never found, but the building was gone, as well. I remember as a child looking out at the Gulf and wondering where their bodies ended up. Did sharks eat them? Did they get torn limb from limb like the trees did? I imagined their screams and saw the terror in their eyes as they grabbed at furniture or door frames as they were swept out to sea. I remember thinking, “What a horrible way to die.”
While Hurricane Camille still ranks as the second worst hurricane to hit the USA, others have been terrible, too. Katrina, Ivan, and, recently, Michael and Florence remind us of the truth of this Scripture:
“As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.” Psalm 103:15
Hurricanes remind me that buildings, even brick ones, are useless against the forces of nature. It is always humbling to see where a large structure stood and after a wall of water moves through, not even a brick can be found.
If a stone structure can’t survive the forces of Mother Nature, little ‘ol me won’t either.
All that really lasts in this life are the things of the spirit world. The treasures you store for yourself in heaven. The love of family. The kindness you showed a stranger. The times you cooked a meal for someone who was downtrodden. The occasion where you stood up for truth against slanderous lies, even when there was nothing in it for you.
Hurricane Camille left a mark on my life. She taught me how small I really was in this world and how powerless I truly was. That was the same year I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior.
He hasn’t shielded me from all storms, but He has given me hope to survive them. And, He has taught me the life-changing lesson to focus on the things in life that matter to God. Possessions can be gone in a split second.
Have you learned a lesson from a hurricane?