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Voices of Hurricane Andrew: The Question


We’ve been collecting stories about Hurricane Andrew from people around South Florida for our “Remembering Andrew” series. We’ve also been combing through a lot of archival sound and video, including an archive we found called “Voices of Andrew.”

In the months following Hurricane Andrew, graduate students from the University of Miami collected dozens of oral histories. The archive is called “Voices of Andrew.”  It’s packed with detailed accounts from all kinds of people: teachers, insurance agents and pastors.

One question the grad students asked people right after Andrew:

When the hurricane first started, at what point did you first realize that you better take cover? What happened to you during the hurricane? What did you do right after the hurricane?

This matches, almost word for word, what we at WLRN have been asking people as we collect stories for our Remembering Andrew series.

Two things struck WLRN-Miami Herald News reporter Kenny Malone about the responses:

-This was weeks after the hurricane; and as people give these accounts of their houses being torn down around them, they are remarkably calm.

-When we ask these same questions today the memories of Andrew are just as vivid as they were 20 years ago.

There is a difference between the way Andrew survivors talk about the hurricane today and 20 years ago. There’s one question in the UM tapes that gets at this.

It’s when the grad students ask, “Was there a time during the storm when you thought you might not survive?”  With this question, you hear people’s voices waver; they’re still scared in those weeks following Andrew.

Eugene Provenzo is an education professor at the University of Miami. He created the Voices of Andrew project. He and his wife wrote a book from the oral histories called In the Eye of Hurricane Andrew.

In the process of writing that book, Provenzo listened to every single interview at least once: “As I re-listen to these interviews 20 years later, I find myself less connected to them. Distanced from them. I think we maybe protect ourselves and set ourselves apart from these events. I think it’s one of the reasons it’s so important to preserve materials like this.”

Almost all of the Voices of Andrew oral histories are preserved online.

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