Honeymoon with (Hurricane) Wilma Day 1 - October 19, 2005 It’s our wedding day. We wanted to get an early start in case there were any glitches in our schedule. Our plan was to get up early and get to the courthouse by 10:00 am. We arrived at the courthouse and within the hour we were Mr. & Mrs. Talmage B. Booth III. Our flight to Miami didn’t leave until 3:30 PM. This gave us time to walk around St. Augustine and enjoy the beautiful day. After lunch at the Columbia Restaurant we hopped in the 4 Runner and made our way to the airport. The flight to Miami arrived on time and after a 2-hour layover, we would be in Cancun and at the hotel by 8:00 PM. The travel agency provided us with transportation to the Hyatt so Tal & I were able to relax and take in the sites of what the locals call the “Hotel Zone”. There was one beautiful hotel/resort after the other. A short 20 minutes later we were checking in with a glass of wine in my hand and a bottle of beer in Tal’s. Tal had purchased the deluxe package which included a room on the penthouse floor with an ocean view, breakfast and a reception from 6:00-8:00 PM every evening that included complimentary hors’ duerves and drinks. The Chief Concierge briefed us on the action the hotel would take if ordered to evacuate by the County’s Civil Protection Committee. The hotel had arranged for all of their guests to move to a shelter in downtown Cancun. There, they would provide food and drinks. Dinner that evening was at the hotel. It was late so they were only offering the buffet. We dined at the buffet and celebrated our first night of marriage with a couple of margaritas. Day 2 - October 20, 2005 That morning we were awakened by a very loud thud against our window. Tal pulled the curtains open to discover that the force of the wind had broken the glass in the glass sliding door and the floor was wet. We went down to the front desk and requested a different room. This is when we found out the hotel was evacuating by 12:00 PM. We were given instructions to proceed to the lobby to receive further instructions from the staff. We were asked to bring our travel documents and personal valuables. We were instructed to secure our luggage in the bathroom and keep our hand luggage to a minimum. No heavy luggage will be allowed on the bus. We packed our small carry on bag with a change of clothes, toiletries and a camera. Before we made the elevator trip down to the lobby, we spoke to one of the hotel staff inside the “Penthouse Convenience Room”. He updated us on the hurricane and offered us a soft drink to take with us. They had a small library so I grabbed a Daniel Steele novel. By 1:00 PM we were on a large tour bus headed for the shelter. The shelter was a schoolhouse with approximately (8) 15 x 15 classrooms. Room assignments were issued as we deboarded the bus. Inside the classrooms on the floor were chaise lounge cushions with a sheet folded on top. We got the last cushion available in our room. Tal & I were going to have to share a cushion. Approximately 30 people were assigned to our small classroom. It appeared that each room was assigned a representative from the hotel. Because the majority of the people in our room were oriental and didn’t speak English, our room representative would give instructions in Japanese. During the course of the next hour Tal walked from room to room and returned with the news that our room was the most crowded and that there were two empty rooms next door. We wanted to try to get into one of the empty rooms. We were in the right place at the right time when they started moving people into the empty rooms. We rushed over and did our best to explain we wanted to move into one of these rooms. This would be the first of several times we would be in the right place at the right time. A ham and cheese sandwich, banana and soft drink were provided for lunch. Tal could not eat his sandwich because it had mayonnaise on it. I gave him my banana so he dined on 2 bananas and I dined on a sandwich. There were a few extra sandwiches that got passed out and I took an extra banana. We did not know at the time how important that banana and the Diet Coke we grabbed earlier would become to us. Approximately 2-3 hours later we decided we needed to get out of there. We were told that we did not have to go to the shelter provided by the hotel if we wanted to make our own arrangements at a hotel downtown. We arranged for one of the locals to transport us to the Caribe International hotel. Our room was on the second floor at the back of the hotel. The accommodations were not great but the room appeared clean and we were grateful we were able to leave the shelter. On the drive to the hotel we saw that the grocery stores had closed. After check-in at the hotel downtown, we crossed the street to the only remaining open restaurant, which was an Argentine restaurant. This is when we discovered that the sale of alcohol is prohibited before, during and after the hurricane. Just when we needed a drink the most we couldn’t get one. The food was very good and very cheap. After dinner we walked about a half a block. All other businesses were closed and boarded up. It was approximately 8:00 PM and we were ready to call it a night. We returned to our room and took the last shower we would get in 7 days. The wind had started to pick up. We were able to fall asleep with the air conditioner cranked down as cold as we could get it. The hurricane hit in the middle of the night. We are not sure what time of the night we lost electric. The force of the rain and wind was causing our window to breathe in and out. I was terrified. I could hear breaking glass and loud falling objects all around us. I don’t know how he did it but Tal fell back asleep. I couldn’t take my eyes off the window. Eventually exhaustion over came me. Day 3 - Friday, October 21, 2005 When we woke up the hurricane felt like to was still on top of us. We had daylight so we were brave enough to leave our room to go the lobby. It seemed that everyone had the same idea. At this time the hotel lobby is still dry. The lobby floor is covered with Mexicans lying, sitting and standing. We feel so alone. There doesn't appear to be any food or water. It’s 4:00 PM and we have been in and out of our room all day hoping to get news on the hurricane and/or find some other English- speaking people. The rain and wind have not let up all day. We thought about stepping outside but decided it would be too dangerous. We found a couple of chairs outside under the pool deck pavilion right next to the outdoor grille. There appears to be something going on in a room off the grille area. After 10 minutes of watching Mexicans going in and coming out of the room I stand up to see for myself. I looked in and saw someone cooking. I rush back to tell Tal that they are cooking. We hadn’t eaten nor had anything to drink since the night before so we are thankful for the news. We decided that morning we were not eating the banana or drink the Diet Coke until we were really desperate. A short time later they brought out scrambled eggs and broth. Because Tal cannot eat eggs, he would not stand in line for food. We were not sure that there was enough food for everyone so I couldn’t convince Tal to stand in line. He did not feel very hungry and didn’t want to take food from someone that might be hungry. I finally convinced him to eat the ½ cup of broth on my plate & I would eat the eggs. Tal found a working pay phone at the hotel. Kristy’s answering machine only gave me enough time to let her know we were OK. We were able to reach Amie but the reception was poor. With all the excitement I forgot to tell her where we were staying. At least she had the phone number I was calling from. We were happy that we could let everyone know we were OK. No water but we were OK. Nightfall is at 7:00 PM. We have a candle in our room with no way to light it. I could hear voices in the hallway so I leave the room to ask for a light. Tal fell asleep before me. The wind and rain seem to be worse than the night before. The whole building is shaking. The bed is shaking so bad it feels like a train is passing nearby. Day 4 - Saturday, October 22, 2005 Tal woke before me and had the window open. The rain had stopped and there was a nice breeze blowing in. We can see the flooded streets from our room. There are cars parked a couple of streets over and the water is above tire level. The streets in front of the hotel are flooded much worse. The lobby is flooded in ankle deep water. This is day 2 with no electric and no water and now no phone service. The rooms on the front side of the hotel are flooded. We are starting to second-guess ourselves. Did we make a mistake leaving the shelter? No one is watching out for us here we are on our own. The bright side is we have a dry room and a bed. Although we have had very little food and no water we both feel pretty good despite the circumstances. We still have our banana and Diet Coke! We were in our room when someone knocked on the door making an announcement in Spanish. Before Tal could get the door open she was gone. Upon leaving the room we found a line forming on the stairway. We could only guess that this was a food line. A young woman ahead of us was speaking English. I could hear her ask others if they spoke English. It turns out she was making a list of all the English speaking people so that they could get the information back to the Government. This way our families would know where we were and that we were OK. A young couple was standing behind us in line and they are also Americans. John and Macy Douglas were also on their honeymoon. Before we reached the front of the line the food was gone. Through some interpretation, we understood more food was on the way. One of the Mexican men was looking for volunteers. I encouraged Tal to help. I remained in line as Tal followed the men into the flooded waters in front of the hotel. The water was chest high as he followed them not knowing what they needed or where they were going. As I stood in ankle deep water I began to worry. They were gone a long time. When they returned, they brought back this huge black container that we have seen on all the roofs of every building. We figured it was some sort of water tank to help build pressure for the water supply. He spotted a schoolhouse very similar to the shelter that the Hyatt provided for us. It was completely flooded. This reinsured our decision to leave. Tal received a raincoat out of the tank for his help. He was cold and wet so the raincoat was nice as we continued to stand in line for food. While we were waiting several of the men started pulling cans of tuna and boxed milk out of the tank. Tal had help bring provisions that The Mexican Army had dropped off down the street where there was less flooding. About an hour later we were each dining on a cup of heated tuna and rice. Today we met John & Macy, David & Lynn, Tony and David and his wife. John & Macy are from Austin, TX. David & Lynn are from England. David is from Toronto (wearing a Cincinnatti embroidered shirt. Yes, it was misspelled.) Today we realized that we must stay downstairs as much as possible if we are to eat. We have heard many different reports about the progress of the hurricane. We are hearing that there are 2 more hurricanes brewing and it’s very possible they are heading this way. David from Toronto heard that Wilma had passed but was lingering north of Cancun because of a high-pressure area in Jacksonville. Reports are coming in that the rain should let up within the next 5 hours. Intermittently throughout the day we look out our hotel room window to measure the level of the water on the cars parked in the street on the backside of the hotel. The water level must drop significantly before power can be restored. Word is the airport is opening on Monday. It is still raining and we are turning in for the night. Day 5 - Sunday, October 23, 2005 We shared our banana this morning. The flood water level has not changed. I have a headache this morning. After getting dressed we made our way downstairs for some news about the airport. The lobby is still flooded. We meet Kelly & Brian from Austin, TX. I remembered seeing them at the Argentine restaurant Thursday night. Brian left to wade in the thigh high water on the backside of the hotel hoping to find a store open. I have not been the only one noticing that the Mexican people staying at the hotel have been getting bigger food portions and are always carrying a bottle of water with them. This is day 3 with no water. Brian came back 30 minutes later with 2 liters of Pepsi and a carton of cigarettes. He said there was a store down the street selling food from a hole in a window. Lynn & David joined us and said she heard the reception desk had water. She asked for water earlier and at first she was told there was no water. She told them that the woman upstairs said there was water at the front desk. They brought the water out & gave her about a cup of water. Tal ran up to get our cups from our room. This was the first drink we had in 3 days. The food line is beginning to form again. I ran upstairs to get the plates we kept from our last meal. I cleaned them up as best as I could with facial wipes. We have been sharing the same spoon. Today’s meal consisted of warmed tuna, peas, potatoes, onions and peppers. Today’s portion was much bigger. John & Macy are talking about treading through the water to dry land to catch a taxi to the airport. They can see dry land and cars driving about 3-4 blocks away from their 4th floor room. We told them we would go with them. Our chances of getting one of the first flights out will be better if we are at the airport. Our hopes faded when the 2 young American men standing in line behind us said they were at the airport on Wednesday and had to leave because the airport was closing. They are not allowing anyone to stay. Today Tal discovered that the first floor had access to the roof. Kelly, Brian, Tal & I walked through a broken glass doorway onto the roof. Brian speaks a little Spanish and is talking to the Mexicans at the restaurant next door. He bought some water from them and also convinced them to sell him a beer. They were very afraid because the hotel owner had already told them they were not to sell any alcohol to his guests. Tal & Tony left hoping to make a phone call and to go to the store. He returned with water, cookies, chips & Diet Coke. He was able to reach his sister Nancy. She has booked return flights for us on Wed., @ 1:45 PM. Many of us have been able to call home. It was a good day! More and more people are braving the floodwaters. An electric company rep. was here today. We were told that we should have electric by tonight but not to use it for the air conditioner or TV. From our window the food line forms again. We were too late. Neither of us was very hungry but because you never know when the next meal is coming you line up anyway. Several times a day we take the garbage cans from our room and fill them with pool water to flush our toilet. Despite the fact we are wearing the same clothes and haven’t had a shower in 3 days we “look” fairly clean. I even put on a little eye makeup to help lift my spirits. Everyday we have cleaned our faces with facial wipes and brush our teeth without water. Now we have a little bit of water and feel pretty confident we can get more so I have threatened to use some of our water to wash my hair. We have started making a mental list of all the items we are going to pack on future trips i.e., extra cash, flashlight, first aid kit and extra cell phone batteries. Many of the guests are moving into the hallway on the upper floors because their rooms have flooded. The ceilings are falling in. We felt very fortunate that our room has stayed dry. The current rumor circling is that the airport may open on Tuesday. John & Macy have flights out on Tuesday. Tal & I have flights out on Wednesday. We just don’t know how were going to get there. Tal & I meet Brent & Lacy from Colorado for the first time. Tonight’s meal was 1 cup of rice soup & ½ tortilla. This was the first thing I have eaten that made me feel sick later that evening. It’s getting late and it seems some Mexican women have taken over the kitchen. They are asking for a little bit of water from everyone in order to soak some beans for tomorrow’s meal. There were not enough water donations to soak the beans. Shortly afterwards the Mexicans are asking for more volunteers. Tal followed them upstairs to what appeared to be an office. They all came down carrying 5-gallon jugs of water. In all they carried down about 10 jugs. How long has that been there? It was all carried into the kitchen. It is getting late so we returned to our room. The electric was never turned on. Although we weren’t hungry we felt like treating ourselves to a Diet Coke and jalepeno chips. Big mistake. The caffeine kept us awake. I read by candlelight for awhile. I heard a lot of commotion outside near the pool so I got out of bed to look out the window. There were about 10 Mexicans leaving through the back gate. I got very upset thinking the hotel staff was deserting us. A few moments later they returned carrying boxes of provisions from a truck parked in the back alley. Tonight is the first night we can see stars in the sky. This is a good sign. Day 6 - Monday, October 24, 2005 Looking out our window we can see that the water has drained on the streets at the back of the hotel. We are anxious to get downstairs to check the streets in the front. The streets are almost completely drained but there is debris everywhere. One of the tour buses left this morning while we were still asleep. Some are leaving for the 4-hour trip to the Merida airport. We feel our chances are better to stay here and hope the airport is open by Wednesday to catch the return flight Tal’s sister Nancy had booked for us. John & Macy and Brent & Lacy are planning to leave for the Cancun airport today. It was sad to see them go but we were happy for them at the same time. I spoke to Sherri for the second time. She made contact with Katherine and the Royal Sands Hotel. Katherine volunteered to take us wherever we wanted to go. We were never able to reach her. Today we feasted on chicken nuggets and Spam. So many people had left by then there was plenty to go around. Tal & I decided to take a walk. It was a beautiful day. The sky was blue and the sun was shining. The Mexicans are working very hard to clean up. One by one as the day progresses more and more shops begin to open their doors. In many cases the people are waiting in line to purchase food. The shop owners are only letting in a small amount of people in at a time. We come across Lynn & David. They found a convenience store that sold them vodka and warm beer. Tal & I were a little leery at first because the alcohol ban was still in effect. We walked by the store first before entering. Desperate times bring desperate measures. Once the shopkeeper knew what we wanted he asked that we wait until his shop cleared out. Within 10 minutes we scored a bottle of 1800 Cuervo & Jhimador tequila and were on our way back to the hotel. We immediately returned to our room to stash our bottles. I spotted a small group of people we met leaving through the back gate. I ran downstairs to see where they were headed. They were gone by the time I got there but I found Lynn & David talking to John & Macy. Airport security would not let them enter the airport. Their plan was to go back the following day with Brent & Lacy. They would enter the airport on foot if they had to. Forty-five minutes had passed and still no Tal. Macy said she saw Tal from the window in our room. I went upstairs to get him and discovered he had gotten into the tequila without me. He claims that he thought that I left. Today was the first day we got maid service. Tal had apparently been talking to her in his best Spanish & German accents. She didn’t understand a word but it was clear she thought Tal was loco (tequila loco). Meal preparation had begun but none of us were interested in standing in another food line. The eight of us decided to take our chances at one of the local restaurants. Most of us ate cheese con queso and chips. Tal, John and David took their chances and ordered the steak fajitas. The majority of tourists have left by now. I walked back into the kitchen to see if any food was left behind. I found a couple of the 5-Gallon jugs of water. I carried a jug upstairs and hid it behind our shower curtain. Lynn & I made arrangements to meet @ 4:00 PM to start the party. It was a great night. Little did any of we know that we would be one step closer to home starting tomorrow. Day 7 - Tuesday, October 25, 2005 Tal & woke up fairly early. We didn’t seem to have any of the after effects of drinking 2 bottles of tequila the night before. It was another beautiful day. We weren’t heading for anywhere in particular but we walked and walked. We saw buildings that were completely destroyed. There were lines of Mexicans a ½ mile long waiting to buy groceries. During our walk we came across a restaurant I remembered seeing the first night on the drive from the airport to the hotel. We had been walking for about an hour and were pretty thirsty so we stopped in and we each ordered a Diet Coke. The Cokes were served cold! You would have thought that we had won the lottery. We ordered our first full meal. On the walk back we got turned around and finally had to hail a Taxi to get us back to the hotel. John & Macy were back. The airport was still not open and it wasn’t expected to open before Saturday. Brent & Lacy were able to purchase a flight with Mexicana Air. They would be flying out sometime today. Our cash was running low. Discouraged we went back to our room. I just lied on the bed feeling hopeless. One hour passed when we received a knock at the door. Tal opened the door to find Fernando & Ophelia. We met them on Thursday of last week at the Hyatt before we were bused off to the shelter. They were here to take us to Merida. John & Macy had mentioned that they also used Funjet to book their travel arrangements. While we packed as quickly as we could Ophelia went to Room 405 to find John & Macy. We had to move quickly. We say Lynn & David in the lobby. They just returned with another purchase from the convenience store. I told her that John & Macy were coming with us. We didn’t get the chance to say goodbye. We were gone before they returned from their room. The bus was leaving for Merida as soon we arrived at the meeting point. Fernando thought the Hyatt might have delivered our luggage to the shelter. No such luck. We heard rumors and Fernando confirmed that the Hyatt was the only hotel in the “Hotel Zone” that was completely destroyed. We can only guess that our luggage is floating somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico. It didn’t matter we were on our way home. Five minutes earlier the bus had left without us. Fernando assured us they would take us one way or another. Soon a van pulled up but we were waiting for one more couple before we could leave. The drive to Merida took 8 hours. The driver didn’t speak much English but he was kind and allowed us to stop and eat at a restaurant outside of Cancun. The food was the best we had eaten all week. He also indicated that we would probably fly out as soon as we got to the airport. We were exhausted when we arrived at the airport at 12:00 AM. We hooked up with the tour bus that we missed earlier. The police had the entry to the airport blocked. The airport was closing it gates to any more arrivals. It was couldn’t handle anymore buses. The bus seats were damp and it smelled like it had been in the flood. This is where we would spend the night. Day 8 – Wednesday, October 26th Morning arrived and we received the news that we would be flying out at 11:00 AM. The bus was given permission to enter the airport. In our caravan there were about 4 full tour busloads and 4 vans full of tourists that Funjet had rounded up to put on charter flights back to the states. Upon arriving into the airport we could see that many people had spent the night outdoors on the airport grounds with no more than a cot pad to lie on. We heard that scorpions had stung several people the night before. Things were happening pretty fast at this point. They broke us down into groups depending on your destination city. They called out Chicago, Kansas City, Dallas and Cleveland. If your destination city was not called you were to pick a city closest to your final destination. Tal & I stood in line for Dallas with John & Macy. At this point it all seemed pretty well organized. The airport did an amazing job supplying the tourist with free snacks and water. Later pizza would arrive. We heard that Funjet had 4 flights chartered to return us to the states. Nancy had already booked us on a 6:45 PM flight from Dallas to Jacksonville. If we arrived early we would do stand-by. After many hours of waiting in the hot sun with little to protect us we got word that Funjet had failed to file flight plans and schedule time at the gates. This is the point it became one long waiting game. All day we heard different stories depending on which Funjet rep you spoke to. Several times during the course of the day we heard our flight was enroute and would arrive shortly. Never happened. People were starting to get angry. Tal noticed that the Funjet representatives were picking families with kids and older customers were being pulled aside and loaded onto planes. As evening fell Tal & I picked a spot near the makeshift Funjet information desk. We wanted to stay close to catch any new information although most of the information we were receiving was inaccurate. Throughout the morning we have been told there was a 1:30 PM flight to Dallas. The plane never arrived. The flights to Chicago, Cleveland & Kansas City never materialized. Now everyone would be flying to Dallas. By 8:00 PM we were told that the plane was in Boston with mechanical problems. If the plane couldn’t be fixed then they would bring in a MD-83. Regardless we would not be leaving before 12:00 AM. At this time we were promised to receive hourly updates. The next hourly update came with bad news. The flight to Dallas wasn’t going to happen. We had 2 choices; St. Louis or Denver and we would be flying out on Champion Airlines. Champion had flights coming in and had room for 80 people. The Funjet passengers would piggyback on the Champion flights. The fight for a flight had begun. I was practically trampled has people lined up to sign up for either flight. After Tal signed us up for the St. Louis flight he went inside the airport to call American Airlines direct. They booked us on the 8:30 AM flight from St. Louis to Jacksonville. Day 9 – Thursday, October 27th Time was nearing 12:00 AM. Within minutes of accepting the fact we weren’t going home today we were instructed to gather our things and line up for the St. Louis flight. We were in a pretty good position to be one of the first in line. John & Macy were just ahead of us. We were going home! We filed in two by two into the airport. Boarding the flight was delayed because they stopped all Funjet passengers to write down our name, birth date and driver’s license number & expiration date. The flight back was very emotional for me. It was approximately 1:00 AM when our plane erupted in cheers as we left the ground. More cheers erupted as the pilot announced the moment we flew into US airspace. Three hours later at approximately 4:00 AM we landed in St. Louis as another round of cheers erupted. Tal & I were sitting in the 3rd row and deboarded the plane very quickly. We decided to get a hotel room and take our first shower in 7 days and get an hour or two of sleep before our 8:30 AM flight to Jacksonville. We were back at the airport by 7:30 AM. The American Airline ticket agent confirmed our reservations and asked us how we were going to pay the $736/ticket. Tal asked about our tickets from Cancun to Jacksonville but the ticket agent said we could not transfer those tickets to this flight. He called Nancy and she secured tickets on Southwest for us later that day. Tal decided to call American Airline’s 800 number to complain. After talking to several representatives, they agreed to honor our original ticket. We had a 1:30 PM flight that got us back to Jacksonville at 4:00 PM. We left the airport and went to the ER at Baptist Hospital but after a 4-hour wait, we decided to go home and call our Doctors to schedule a check up for the next day.
Pages to are hidden for
"Honeymoon with Wilma"Please download to view full document