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The Aftermath Of Andrew

Hurricane Andrew was one of the most powerful storms of the century. It decimated South Florida.

48 Hours Correspondent Bob McNamara reports on how those who went through it have fared since.

In August 1992, as the storm was on its way, South Floridian Gus Grazer grabbed his video camera. He wanted to record the way his house looked before Andrew hit.

"This is just before the hurricane, and I just want to take a few pictures and show you what I had," he says on the tape. He even recorded his possessions.

Then, like his neighbors, he and his wife Donna packed up and headed north, out of the hurricane's path. After the storm, people started for home. They were unprepared for the devastation. There was shock - and tears. Thousands came back to a place they'd never been before.

"I was thinking 'Where are we gonna go?'" recalls Donna Grazer, Gus' wife. "We were all crying."

Even after six years, seeing what the hurricane did to their home brings it all back for the Grazers. They still have difficulty looking at the tape.

Today the Grazers are still in Florida but further inland. But the bad memories have followed them. Donna Grazer believes the hurricane killed her father.

Hurt by the loss of his home, Donna Grazer's dad, a retired military man, was shattered by the damage at Homestead Air Force base. Four years after the hurricane, he suffered a stroke and died.

But they're not the only ones who had to pick up the pieces six years ago.

Larry Conklin, now 77, had come to Florida to retire in the sunshine. After the hurricane, he thought he had lost everything.

He and his wife Etta decided to start over. After 55 years of marriage and with five children, they had gathered countless keepsakes. Hurricane Andrew took it all.

At the time, they had said they would never come back and would never live in a mobile home. Six years later, they are not only in Florida, but live in the same mobile home park struck by Hurricane Andrew. Etta Conklin admits, amid laughter, that she has apparently not learned her lesson.

They both have dark memories of the days following the disaster. "You couldn't even find the street or the houses that you were used to," Etta Conklin says.

Why did they come back? "God spared us in that one. And if we get another one, if it isn't our time, he'll spare us again," says Etta Conklin.

Many in South Florida rebuilt their lives after the high winds and heavy damage of Hurricane Andrew.

But reconstructing a whole town is much tougher.

More than 100,000 homes were destroyed in South Florida as a result of Andrew. The town of Homestead was especially hard hit. Today its homes are rebuilt.

But thousands of residents will never be back.

Homestead Air Force base is essentially closed. It was badly wounded by the hurricane, and then killed by military cutbacks.

"We're talking about 10,000 jobs," says Steve Shver, the mayor of Homestead, Fla. He is working overtime to rebuild his town and its national image.

"I was born here," he says. He is campaigning to convince the town's merchants they can come back economically.

Those who stayed say they are not victims, but survivors. "I think living through a hurricane is a lot like having a baby," says one woman. "At the time it's going on, it's very painful. But you tend to forget the pain as the years go by."

Dark clouds, though, can bring the flood of memories back. "When a storm comes over here," says Gus Grazer, "and the lightning and the wind's blowing, that's the time we really shake."

Produced by David Kohn

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