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Bonzer Words!: Kind Neighbors

Mary Clemons tells of neighborliness when hurricanes come blasting into Florida.

Mary writes for Bonzer! magazine. Please click on www.bonzer.org.au

We have always been cordial with our neighbors, waving at passing cars or exchanging a greeting on the street, which sometimes led to a short side of the road chat. It wasn't until the hurricane season of '04 that we became aware of how fortunate we were.

In our section of Florida, hurricanes never come on shore. Instead, they creep over the state to exit near us. In our brief eleven years, hurricanes were no more than large rain storms bringing flooding. This was all to change with the '04 season.

Hurricane Charley was the first to cross through our neighborhood. A category 3, he whipped trees back and forth and tore away weaker, older roofs. In our relatively new house, he was nothing more than an inconvenience. The inconvenience was mostly due to the lack of electricity, phones, and a shortage of gasoline.

Since we opted to stay, we keep a close watch on our neighbor's property. By making ourselves seen, and picking up newspapers, we were able to discouraged would be looters. When our neighbors returned, yards were put to rights, and some tarps were put on roofs.

Hurricane Francis, another category 3 storm, was our undoing. Unlike her brother, she meandered across the state taking three times longer than the average hurricane. What her brother had weakened or loosened, she ripped and tore.

So it was with our solar panels. As we sat barricaded behind plywood covered windows, she slowly ripped the panels apart, one by one. Then, taking the broken end of the pipe, she hammered a hole through the roof. Once the shingles had a missing area, she peeled away section by section, until a quarter of our roof was nothing more than plywood.

As my small family surveyed the damage, the neighbor behind us called over.

'I’ve got a roll of roofing felt you can have. It's left over and I can't return it.' He had just finish roofing a house he was building, and that was his way of saying he would not accept any payment. We thanked him.

While my husband was at the local hardware store getting roofing nails and a tarp, he saw the man who built our house. Since he was also a neighbor, he came that afternoon to estimate the damage. Along with free advice on how to secure the felt, shingles, and the newly purchased tarp, he gave us a butter container full of tar-like roof sealer and a free estimate. Since my husband is disabled, it was me and my son on the roof doing the work. The wind was whipping about, and the placing of the tarp was a real struggle. More than once, one of us almost went over the edge.

Seeing us, the man across the street, yelled and waved. 'Give me a chance to change clothes and I'll come help you.'

With his assistance, the expert advice, and all the supplies we had been given, we secured the roof. When Hurricane Jeanne came racing through, our patched roof kept the water out—thanks to the kindness of all our neighbors.


© Mary Clemons

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