See a full slideshow remembering Hurricane Andrew here.
In a column published today, I gather memories of a phalanx of former Miami Herald reporters and editors. Here is one from Bill Rose, former editor of Tropic Magazine and now a visiting professor in Mississippi. The newspaper won a Pulitzer gold medal for its coverage of the storm, which nailed South Florida 20 years ago on Friday.
Andrew struck South Florida about a month after I had taken my son and daughter to the original Parrot Jungle. I loved Parrot Jungle. Right there in otherwise urban Miami-Dade, you could walk through its shaded gate and lose yourself in the cool shadows of mammoth trees -- cypress, banyan, oak, ficus, palm. It was all vines and leafy canopies and cool water and it offered a real sense of what it must be like to live in a real jungle. To us, it really was a jungle, a dark, moist, warm place full of surprises and dark hiding places. Who knew what lurked around the next corner, beneath the next giant tree?
When Andrew struck, it splintered thousands of trees throughout South Dade. You could hear them crack in the darkness of the storm, often louder than the howl of the wind, each one heralding the death of a giant. Three Dade County pines fell in my yard alone. It tooks weeks to cut them out and get them out and then the yard felt naked. Because it was. I full expected Parrot Jungle to be a mess.
Then my cohort at Tropic, Tom Shroder wrote a column revealing that the workers had performed a miracle. They hid the birds before the storm and afterward they swarmed the property, propping up giant trees that had fallen over and performing other acts of salvation. In a few months, it was possible to walk up to Parrot Jungle and not know that a hurricane had ever hit it.
It was one of the biggest surprises of the storm, this resurrection of an attraction that many thought would never recover. In a shattered, splintered landscape, the workers' dedication to putting it back together so lovingly brought hope to many a denuded South Dade neighborhood. Now, of course, a new Parrot Jungle sits on Watson Island. It's a neat place. But it can't touch the original.