Saturday, July 1, 2017

Robert Hazard. The storm on September 16th, 1928. “He has made it his life’s purpose to tell the story.”


Around this time of year, near the start of Hurricane Season, there is an awareness and preparedness event at the mass grave in West Palm Beach for victims of the 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane.

The grave and memorial is located at Twenty-Fifth St. and Tamarind Ave. It’s believed to hold 700 victims of the storm in 1928 — but just the Black victims — the White people that perished were buried elsewhere. The storm killed up to 3,000 in Palm Beach County making it the second deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history.

To read the entire article by Jeff Klinkenberg at the Tampa Bay Times titled, “Unmarked but not unmourned, 1928 Hurricane’s victims get memorial 80 years later”, use this link. Here are the opening paragraphs:

WEST PALM BEACH — Robert Hazard, a gray-haired community activist of 60, hates to miss the weather report. This time of year, when something seems to be brewing in the Atlantic by the hour, he is especially vigilant.
     He has experienced a few hurricanes in his four decades in Florida, though never a bad one. But he has spoken with his elders about the Storm of 1928 — the hurricane of their nightmares. He also has communed with the spirits of the ones killed by that very hurricane. “Oh, they talk to me,” he says with a shy smile.
     You can find Robert Hazard almost every day at the one-acre lot at the corner of Tamarind and 25th streets in the black section of town. He saunters through the field in a hurricanelike counterclockwise direction, meditating about what happened.
     Like the spirits of the dead always tell him: “It was quite a hurricane.”
     The dead folks who talk to him were killed by that hurricane eight decades ago, then pitched into a hole and forgotten.
     Before a great storm named Katrina came to symbolize nature's fury and human folly, there was the Hurricane of 1928.
     “As we saw on television, Katrina was bad,” Hazard says. “The one in 1928 was probably worse. But how many people have ever heard about it? I’m guessing not many.”

“He has made it his life’s purpose to tell the story.”

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