Recounting how her Redland home was destroyed, she explains to clients how fortunate her parents were to have homeowners’ insurance to rebuild. Without it, she’s not sure what might have happened to the family.
“Some people listen, but it was so long ago that a lot of them don’t pay attention,” she said. “They think it’ll never happen again.”
For those who do listen, she describes how, when the roof tiles began to peel off about 1:30 a.m., she ran to her parents’ bedroom — at the same time her two brothers bolted from their own rooms. Within minutes the front door blew open and the sliding glass bedroom door popped.
Shrieking with fear, they ran into the hall, then a bedroom, finally into a closet. Packed “like we were sweaty sardines,” Bethencourt began to feel claustrophobic. She gasped for air.
“I’ve never been so scared in my life,” she recalled.
As the last of the roof peeled away, her father shouted out in Spanish, “If we’re going to die, at least we’re going to die together.”
Morning came. The family survived. Only the outside walls of their house remained, though, their furniture wet and mangled, their possessions scattered. but Bethencourt said she never mourned the clothes, toys and other possessions she lost.
“You’re so grateful that you’re alive that you don’t care,” she said. “You just buy whatever you need.”
But the recovery wasn’t as easy as a store purchase. As the family moved from a relative’s house to a cramped apartment, Bethencourt began suffering from blackouts and panic attacks. One day at school, ready to take a quiz, she couldn’t remember her name.
Her parents took her to a slew of doctors. Various tests and scans followed. The conclusion: There was no physical reason for her reactions.
Over time the panic attacks subsided. She began to sleep better. She could concentrate. The family settled back into their rebuilt home. Bethencourt graduated from high school, married, had a son.
She admits that whenever a hurricane threatens South Florida, she grows anxious and checks to make sure her family is prepared: “As a parent, I know now what my own parents must have gone through thinking they couldn’t protect us.”
For a young Andrew Hagen, the storm sparked a permanent fascination with severe weather. He was 6 when the storm hit and remembers huddling in the hallway with his family listening to meteorologist Bryan Norcross. For Hagen, the calm voice of the weatherman was his introduction to what would become his career.
The Hagens’ Kendall home sustained minimal damage, but Hagen will never forget walking outside their neighborhood to survey the destruction. “I saw the expression my dad’s face and I knew it was bad,” he recalls.
The hurricane’s ferocity fascinated Hagen. By the time he was 7, he was telling people he wanted to be a weatherman. During hurricane season, he tacked tracking maps on his bedroom wall and watched The Weather Channel. As a teenager, in the summer of 2001, he eventually scored an internship with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Virginia Key. “I definitely knew what I wanted to do,” he says. “I thought hurricanes were really neat.”