HOMESTEAD (CBS4) – On August 24, 1992 a Category 5 monster Hurricane Andrew devastated South Florida turning its full force on South Miami-Dade County. Bill and Sandy Zinn’s home in Homestead was completely destroyed, but the memories of Andrew live on.
“I never cried before Andrew…that was such an emotional event…to lose everything you have and to start over again,” said Bill Zinn.
The Zinns had boarded up all their windows, tied up their boat, stocked up on water, food and even had a generator. They said they thought they were prepared and didn’t see any reason to evacuate.
But once the worst of the storm moved across their neighborhood and the Zinns realized how bad it was getting, they decided to get under the mattress. “We no more than got under the mattress and the roof blew off,” said Bill Zinn. He recalls “the sound was an unbelievable roar, like a freight train.”
The ZInns had no idea that their son had a hidden pocket recorder throughout the night. During the recording you can hear Bill’s son say, “the roof just came off,” and the howling winds intensify.
Eventually the Zinns were able to come out from under the mattress the morning after and assess the magnitude of destruction left by Andrew.
“I never imagined a concrete house could be destroyed as easily as it was. But in retrospect it’s because it wasn’t built properly, there was not sufficient rebar..it was just block and mortar,” said Bill Zinn.
Bill and Sandy Zinn were able to rebuild their home and 20 years later, they still live there. Only their house is stronger now and includes a wall of remembrance dedicated to Hurricane Andrew with pictures of their home before and after the storm, radar and satellite images of Andrew and Newspaper clippings.
CBS4 Meteorologist Lissette Gonzalez asked Bill how he felt as we mark the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew.
“I hope it’s a once in a lifetime experience and we don’t have to deal with another one,” he said. “The people here during Andrew can certainly have a greater appreciation of the damaging power of hurricanes.”
While Andrew left thousands, like the Zinns, piecing together their lives, many emerged as leaders to provide resources, help and hope for the community
Carlos Malone has served as a pastor for Bethel church in Richmond Heights since 1990. He had never experienced a hurricane before Andrew demolished his church.
“God gives us experiences for us to learn, remember…and grow,” said Pastor Malone.
Pastor Malone said that he had never dealt with a hurricane before Andrew and he still gets a little emotional when he remembers the aftermath.
“When I was coming down 117th, I’ve never seen anything like it before…I saw houses torn down, people on the streets crying. It was like a war zone,” said Malone.
Pastor Malone said he will never forget pulling up to his church and seeing “70% of the roof blown off, the doors blown off…total devastation.”
Despite the widespread destruction and chaos, Pastor Malone said he felt the need to set up an outreach center to provide food, water and counseling services for the members of his church, for the community and for everyone in need.
“By the time the government had their stuff in place, we had set up everything. We were distributing food we had trucks coming in from in and out of the state,” said Malone. He adds “we didn’t just do it for our church, I believe in community. Whatever we have, we have to share it.”
In the midst of the aftermath of Andrew, Pastor Malone told Meteorologist Lissette Gonzalez that he saw people come together to help one another. “After Andrew, I didn’t see racism, I didn’t see prejudice. I think Miami grew…some things in life just happen to bring us closer together to make us conscious of the human spirit,” said Malone.