Here on the West Coast, we tend to think of the East Coast as pretty much a north-south straight line but that is not the case. When I was six and seven years old, we lived in a spot in North Carolina where the shoreline turns and faces south. When hurricanes came up the coast, they slammed into our little town called Swansboro. 

In two years, we experienced eight hurricanes. Swansboro only had 400 residents at that time, basically a small village with fishing boats and a bridge to the north part of town. The only brick building in the berg was the schoolhouse. When hurricanes were on the way and in one case when the hurricane had already started, we fled to the school. That day my father pulled up 3 1/2 feet from the door into the school. I stepped out of the car and then on my second step, I was in the school.  In that 42-inch transition the hurricane sucked both of my shoes and both of my socks off my feet.

I watched out the window over the next 24 hours and saw the entire roof of a three bay service station lift off and float away like a frisbee. We lost power and one of the men, who was sheltering with us, was trying to light a kerosene lantern when his arm caught on fire. When we pulled up to the school our black cocker spaniel named Hedy Lamarr, did not make it into the building; she was thought to be wandering around in the hurricane. As soon as we were deposited, dad went off driving the town in the middle of the hurricane trying to find her. He came back to the school empty-handed and not looking forward to telling us the sad news. As he was leaving the car, he heard the dog whimper and found that Hedy had completely hidden herself, squeezed underneath the front passenger seat. Dad didn’t tell us about this for several years.  We were happy to see Hedy when they came into the school.

Our house was surprisingly safe though my bicycle was gone. We never did find it. Two of the town’s large fishing boats had apparently ridden the crest of the sea surge and we’re now about 300 yards up the hill from the harbor. Twenty years later I inquired about the boats and was told they were still on the hill; each so wrecked it made no sense to try and drag them back to the harbor or repair.

Memories, though not particularly fond ones, vividly remain with me all these decades later. 

As a survivor I can tell you a truth.  No matter what life throws at you, there are bright spots that will carry you through.  You can dance in a hurricane if you stay in the eye and travel with it. 
(Articles now available in Spanish and Portuguese)

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