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Remembering Andrew: Hurricane Party

If you’re a regular listener to WLRN, you might recognize the voice of Phil Latzman, anchor and host at WLRN.  Phil also happens to be one of NPR’s go-to guys whenever there’s a hurricane anyplace near South Florida. But it wasn’t always that way.

On the weekend before Hurricane Andrew hit in August 1992, Phil was young, living on South Beach, having a good time, playing basketball, going to the beach and listening to a lot of Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Phil and his friends were in their early twenties.  When it seemed that Andrew might hit South Florida, they thought, “Where’s the party?” They ended up at an apartment on the 12th floor of a building in Coral Gables.  Best of all: the apartment had a terrace from which to view all of the action.  They were drinking, talking, with the TV on in the background.

Phil spent some of that party on the terrace, filming with a video camera. He says he still has the tape somewhere, but sadly, he was unable to find it for this story “so that we could all see the stupidity.”  Phil says:

“When things got really bad, the winds were strong enough to lift me up like a flag. I felt the angle of my body sort of lift up even further and all of a sudden, I was going to be standing straight up the back of my body was going to be straight up if I didn’t do something.”

His friends pulled him in to safety.  For Phil, that experience and the weeks after the hurricane, were a time to grow up: “The realization of what followed–the blue roofs–the fact that people had nothing. I was like, ‘OK, I’m not rooting for a hurricane ever again.’”

He’s never told his teenage kids this story–”It’s embarrassing to admit you’re an idiot,” –but he wonders if the airing of this story might be a good opportunity.  Anyone who’s a parent is probably familiar with the tough situation of being honest with children about bad decisions made in the past. Good luck, Phil!

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