In storm's eye, "tunnel to eternity"
By Donald E. Skinner
A Unitarian Universalist was killed in the first of four hurricanes that raked Florida and the southeastern U.S. in August and September. Members of more than 30 UU congregations in Florida and many throughout the Southeast suffered property damage or were displaced by the high winds, rain, flooding, and power outages caused by Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne.
Sally Hansman, 75, a member of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Charlotte County in Port Charlotte, Fla., died after Hurricane Charley from injuries suffered when she fell in her dark home before power was restored to the area.
The Port Charlotte fellowship and the Friendship Fellowship at Pineda in Rockledge, Fla., suffered damage to their buildings. The Friendship Fellowship lost one building and had major damage to a second. Port Charlotte had roof damage and lost many trees. Several other congregations reported minor damage to their buildings.
“It feels and looks like a war zone,” the UUA’s Florida District Executive Mary Higgins said after Jeanne passed. She helped organize crews from unaffected congregations to clean up and make repairs.
The Rev. Sara Zimmerman, of the Port Charlotte congregation, went door-to-door after Hurricane Char- ley to locate members. “We had folks who rode out the hurricane in their homes in the hardest hit area, and they experienced it first-hand in a way that cannot be described,” said Zimmerman.
Congregations feeling the greatest impact from Ivan were those along the coastal regions of Florida and Alabama where high winds and flooding were worst, including the UU Church of Pensacola and the UU Fellowship of the Emerald Coast in Valparaiso, Fla., and the Fairhope Unitarian Fellowship and the UU Fellowship of Mobile in Alabama. No UU congregations in the interior of the Southeast reported more than slight damage to their buildings although western North Carolina was hit hard. Sharon McCollum, former office manager at The Mountain, a UU-affiliated retreat center, was killed in a mudslide in her home near Franklin, N.C. Buildings at The Mountain were also damaged.
The hurricanes provided the first major callout for the UU Trauma Response Ministry, formed after 9/11 to provide resources, education, and support for clergy and congregations faced with catastrophe.
Relief funds have been created to help UU congregations and Florida migrant workers victimized by the storms. Visit www.uua.org for addresses of those funds and further storm information.