For those who don’t live in the area, “Hurricane Andrew” is often referred to as, “Oh right, the hurricane that wiped out Homestead.” Yesterday was the 25th year since the massive destruction and as was to be expected, there has been a run-up to, and lots of coverage of, events as people looked back to that time. We were not here. In fact we were overseas, and unlike today, there was no Facebook, Twitter, streaming news, etc. We also did not have friends or family in the area.Our information was limited and by the time we did relocate, the housing boom was in full swing. (I’m not going into the subsequent housing bust in this post).
When I began to write for the local community weekly paper, my focus then (as now) was business, community, and the military. Not surprisingly, in speaking with business owners, those who had been through Andrew meant they had survived both personally and professionally. What I learned in talking with them was how so many people made the decision not to rebuild and relocated instead with Georgia and the Carolinas as mostly the states of choice. The destruction of Homestead Air Force Base was a huge blow to the economy as well, a secondary effect rarely understood by those who didn’t experience it. In knowing what we do of how these issues work, we can appreciate the fight it took to keep the base even as a “shadow” of it’s former self with the conversion to an Air Reserve Base. There was a historical parallel with the Hurricane of 1945 when with the end of WW II, there was the usual draw down of military forces and posts, and the severe hurricane damage to Homestead Army Airfield made it an easy choice for closure. A decade passed before it re-opened. Although converting from active Air Force into Homestead Air Reserve Base (HARB) meant it was much smaller, retaining it was vital. That struggle paid off and today, there are multiple military units and federal agencies such as U.S. Border Protection on the grounds. Among all the other efforts to recover which can be seen throughout the area, this is a example of holding on to what was a foundation in order to rebuild.