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Hurricane Cancer, I mean Hugo, I mean Irma

You have to experience something to know the full power of it.

September 9th, 1989, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, off the Cape Verde Islands, Hurricane Hugo formed and started to make its way east. Along the way, it became a Category 4 storm and hit Guadeloupe and St. Croix. It weakened to a Category 3 when it hit Puerto Rico, then went down to a Category 2 and then all of a sudden- boom- it picked up steam. The rain got harder, the wind got stronger; it went back up to a Category 3, then to a 4. Then on September 21st on Sullivan’s Island, SC, just north of Charleston, Hugo made landfall. It ripped up the city. Tore down trees, blew away houses. Waters rose and flooded the city and the beaches.

Meanwhile, I was 210 miles up I-26 in Greenville, SC. I was 11 years old, and we were watching the news like hawks because the reports were that the storm was headed right our way.

There was something thrilling about the whole situation. School was cancelled the next day. My parents packed a cooler. We had flash lights and candles. We barely slept as we waited for the storm to hit us.

But something happened on the way up I-26.

Hugo veered to the right.

Instead of making a bee line for Greenville, it went north and hit Charlotte, NC. Square in the teeth.

And I remember being in the dark of my dark bedroom, waiting for the hit, and being disappointed that it didn’t come.

All that anticipation. All that build up. For nothing.

There’s a restaurant in Charleston and Greenville called Tsunami. It has sushi rolls and hibachi and shit like that. That is a really messed up name for a restaurant. Tsunamis wipe out entire cities in the blink of an eye and someone thought that would be a cool name for a place that sells dragon rolls!? That’s how far removed we think we are from the power of nature. Tsunamis can kill thousands of people in the blink of eye and over here we are like yeah, a Tsunami of flavor.

Same thing with hurricanes. That’s why I hate the University of Miami, because they named their sports teams the Hurricanes. That’s really what you want to be the mascot of your football team? Not the Tigers or the Bears, but the Hurricanes? That thing that flooded your grandmother’s ancestral home and ruined all the pictures of your family? Yeah. Go Hurricanes. I guess.

Imagine what this was like 150 years ago. All of a sudden a storm appeared out of no where. The birds would start acting weird and some old lady would come out of her house. She’d tell some story about the great storm from her childhood and how the birds all disappeared beforehand, and she would be dismissed by the villagers as just that crazy old woman from down the way. Then boom. She’s right and everyone is dead.

I remembered the feeling I had during Hugo that week after I got home from the hospital. We were waiting for the results from the biopsy. It was like a storm out there in the distance. Was it going to veer right or left? Was it going to be a direct hit?

That entire week I thought about Hurricane Hugo. I thought about being that little boy with the radio. Protected enough to be excited about danger. Part of me, deep down, was hoping for a direct hit. Part of me was hoping it was cancer. A part of me, on the ride there, was wanting the news to be bad. Wanting to be in the middle of the action.

That part of me is gone of course. Having lived through this direct hit of cancer, now I don’t want a direct hit of anything. And if anyone has that tiny little voice in the very back of their head, excited about the possibility of danger, know that you’re not alone.

You have to experience something to know the full power of it.

But also know that it’s better to be disappointed then to be right.

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