Camille – 40 Years Later

Hurricane Camille roared ashore the MS Gulf Coast exactly forty years ago today.  It’s incredible when you consider how little control we have over Mother Nature and despite even the most arrogant of souls who have tried to control her since, we can no more control a hurricane now than we could then. 

Growing up in south Mississippi my entire life, I’ve witnessed several of these incredible storms.  It doesn’t get easier with time, believe me.  It’s the love story, courtesy of Hurricane Camille, that keeps me respectuful of these storms and their power- and grateful for the one good thing that came from her 1969 landfall.

Camille made landfall shortly before my first birthday.  My mother, who was going through a divorce at eighteen and had me to raise, found herself alone only hours before the storm came ashore.  My grandparents, although they hesitated, finally agreed to go ahead with a scheduled trip to Chicago.  This was only after my grandpa had called his son in law to ensure he was coming after Mom and me.  Only after he was convinced we’d be moved to safety did he and my Maw Maw leave town.   Hours later and realizing we were about to face this hurricane alone, my mom made the decision to bundle me up and walk to the neighbor’s house.  Knowing we were probably the only ones left in our small hometown mattered none.  It was 1969 and everyone left their houses unlocked – even with an unwelcome visitor named Camille who was about to wreak havoc. 

With the wind kicking up, it was dark and the outer rain bands had long since moved ashore, my mom left our small shotgun house in Moss Point and began walking the couple blocks to the neighbor’s house.  Before she got there, she noticed headlights approaching.  I can imagine what was going through her mind.  My guess is she was probably scared beyond comprehension; after all, she was eighteen and alone in a category 5 hurricane.  Remember, too, I was a baby, so this is really my mother’s story – but it will always be my favorite.

The car slowed down as it approached us.  My mom looked in and saw the man she’d eventually marry.  Of course, I’m sure she didn’t know that at the time.  It was my daddy.  Turns out, he’d been patiently waiting for the divorce to become final and on a whim on his way out of town, he felt like he needed to swing by our house one last time to be sure we weren’t abandoned.  Needless to say, he got my mom and me to safety far north of the coast.  They were married two months later and this October, they will celebrate their fortieth wedding anniversary.  Somehow, they raised me and my sister, who came along about a year later, kept their sanity and have continued to write the love story that began because of one category 5 hurricane named Camille.

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