The Untold Story- from the Journal of an
by Nikki Willhite
Aug. 29, 1992- I had one of my three sons
drive me to the airport at 6:45 in the morning. I carried a heavy ladder, and
the biggest suitcase I had. I was stuck on the last seat on the plane- right
over the engine noise. It was a long flight from Seattle to Miami. I developed a
After arriving in Miami, I had a long wait
for my luggage and then I had to pick up my rental car. By this time my head was
throbbing. I had fifteen blocks to drive to get to the hotel, where I could take
my aspirin. However, it was dark, flooded, and there were no street signs to
guide me. It took me 45 minutes to reach my hotel.
Upon arriving at the hotel I was told
there was no water to take my aspirin. I searched in vain for a machine with
liquid of any sort. Finally I went down to the kitchen, where for $5.00 they
give me a soda pop.
I checked in at the desk for messages.
There were none. I lay awake wondering what tomorrow would bring.
Aug. 30- I drove my car over to join my
company team and receive instructions. Before setting off for my designated
area, I buy bottled water, batteries, an umbrella, and a rain poncho.
My first assignment was 4 claims- on the
same street. Then I drove toward Homestead. I was only halfway there when I
began seeing the totally unbelievable destruction. I couldn't believe how bad it
was, and I was only halfway there.
August 31- I paid over $200,000 today in
just one day. I found myself very emotionally upset at the severe destruction.
Not only that- it was difficult to drive around without any street signs.
Everywhere that I stopped the people would rush around my car, which had the
signs of my insurance company on it, asking for help. People were sitting
outside of what was left of their homes, with their insurance company's names
and their policy numbers written on whatever part of their home was left
September 6th- I am being transferred into
the hardest hit area of Hurricane Andrew. I write home "the only way to describe
the destruction of this type of thing is to see it for yourself. I have seen a
lot of storm damage in the past, but what sets this apart, is that it goes on
for miles and miles. Today I was in a retired couples condominium. They were
essentially camping out. The roof was gone, there was no air-conditioning, and
they were living on a concrete floor. I have not seen these types of conditions
since I left Mexico over 20 years ago".
September 20th- A lot of people here are
under a lot of stress. Many of the claims are difficult to do, because the
owners have just left. There are so many, many claims, and the people that are
still here are so desperate. The pressure to get them all done as quickly as
possible is severe. There are not enough hours in the day, and we are all
feeling the burden of the long, hours of endless work. Many adjusters have left-
unable to take to strain. Some did not last for more than a few days. It's like
being in a "war zone". I must try and take a day off to relieve my stress.
September 28th- I called my wife tonight.
It is hard on her for me to be gone so long. While I am talking to her, there is
gunfire in the background. I hope she doesn't hear it. Yesterday, when I was
doing a claim, 3 young men came up to the house with guns. The owner and I stood
outside while they took away what was left in the house.
Oct 5th- Finally I am going home- for a
few days. Then I must come back. I don't want to, but I am needed.
Oct. 8th- My son again drove me to the
airport at 6:30 in the morning. This time I am prepared. I know what to expect.
It does not make it easier. As I am flying away from Seattle again, I think of
my wife and three sons, and how much I am going to miss while I am gone.
November 6th- the work goes on and on, but
I will not be here to do it. This is my last night. Tomorrow I am going home and
will not be back. I pray for these poor people and all they have been through.
It has been so stressful for everyone involved. So many people have left. One of
the other adjusters from my company had his hair turn totally white while he was
November 7th- I got up at 6:00 AM for my
flight. After another very long day, I am finally home. When I got home, I found
my luggage had been opened, and the money I had put in there was gone. After all
I had done to help these people, it seemed a real "slap in the face". I was
later to learn that luggage theft at the Miami airport was common. I wish I had
November 8th- It's Sunday, and after going
to Church, I rested all day. There will be no other rest for me, as I have to go
back to my regular job tomorrow. Tomorrow I will tell my wife the things that I
dare not tell her when I was in Florida. It would have upset her too much. When
she knows the whole story, she will understand why I am going out tomorrow to
buy a gun.