As part of our “Remembering Andrew” series, we’re telling small stories about one of the biggest events in South Florida history. The series will run every week until August 24th, the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew.
This week we introduce you to Geoffrey Philp. Philp is a poet, novelist, playwright and English professor at Miami-Dade College. He grew up in Jamaica but when Andrew hit, Philp was living in Miami Shores with his wife and three kids.
A hurricane really asks you the question: What is important to you? And if you had to leave right now, what would you take? Obviously, the first things I would grab would be my children. So my wife, I mean, we had a sort of emergency plan, ok? I would take my two girls. She would take the baby. And if I could hold this battered old radio in one hand, that is how we would run out of the house if it came to that.
This “radio” was an old transistor radio that belonged to his mother (he wrote an homage to her here), who was from Westmoreland, Jamaica. That radio was one of the only things Geoffrey’s mother brought with her when the family moved to the United States in 1979. The year before Hurricane Andrew, she died of pancreatic cancer.
Geoffrey inherited that beat-up old radio.
It was the radio he had during Andrew. And the radio he wrote this poem about:
through the garbled signals
of a transistor radio
my mother kept for hurricanes like this,
but never like this,
we scan for the next location
of ice, water, food, and catch
the edge of a caribbean tinged
station, fragments of a marley tune,
“no woman, nuh cry, everything’s
gonna be all right,” and my son,
barely nine months, who cut a tooth
while andrew gnawed through the grove,
dances with his mother
by the glow of a kerosene lamp,
preserved through airport terminals
and garage sales, and, as the window
splintered–the house glittered
for a moment before the walls
fell flat–stood on the mantle
of the fireplace we never used.
in the midst of the rubble
these, our only heirlooms, bind us
against the darkness outside,
all that she could ever give,
all that we could ever pass on
or possess: this light, this music.