Stories of comfort

Opening her arms wide to draw the children closer, her mother called for everyone to pray. So Addi Casseus, a self-confessed “drama queen’’ anxious all summer to enter ninth grade at Miami Jackson High School, closed her eyes, terrified:

“Oh Lord, please let me at least see the ninth grade. Please let me make it to high school. Please let me lose my virginity before I die. Please let me get married and graduate from college.’’

Casseus, now a jazz singer and academic support coordinator for Union Institute & University in North Miami Beach, laughs at the memory. “It definitely came from the imagination of a 13-year-old I hadn’t even had my first kiss.’’

In due course, her prayers would be answered. But Casseus’ most powerful memory from that night is how her parents, Anne-Marie Desir and Antoine Casseus, calmed the children with stories about growing up in Haiti while Andrew howled outside their Wynwood duplex.

“My dad even told us about the time he waited out a hurricane in a tree. A tree?! I thought, surely, we’ll be fine.’’

It was rare and wonderful to have so much time with her parents, then a factory dressmaker and a construction worker. They were loving parents but they worked hard, long hours to raise five children.

“What happened, ironically enough, was I looked forward to another storm because everyone was usually too busy to sit down and tell stories,” Casseus recalls. “That was probably the longest time my dad had spent telling us about his own childhood. That’s what really resonates with me.’’


Hurricane Andrew 20 years later