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Oct 31, 2006

Survivors remember harrowing night of Hattie

Story PictureAs we near the end of a hurricane season that will hopefully be recorded as one of the quietest in memory, it behoves us to recall a time when we were not so lucky.

Jacqueline Godwin, Reporting
On this day forty-five years ago hurricane Hattie with winds in excess of two hundred miles per hour made a direct hit Belize. It was one in the morning and forty men, women and children had sought shelter inside the Turton Library formerly the Jubilee Library on North Front Street. Today, those who survived the ordeal inside the two storey wooden building gathered at the location in observance of that catastrophic event.

Emelda Ramirez, Survivor, Hurricane Hattie
?We had to move so quickly to save the children. When I was looking around to get the grocery boxes and feed for them and like that everything was just floating. Shelves started to fall down and that happened real quickly.?

Otto Petersen, Survivor, Hurricane Hattie
?We were young and having fun, but when the hurricane started everything became frantic. Especially after the water started to come into the library and the book shelves started being overturned. We had a lot of people here that had to get upstairs.?

Alfonso Ramirez, Survivor, Hurricane Hattie
?A few hours after when we thought it was all over a tidal surge of fifteen feet battered our coast and flooded this old city.?

Fifty-six year old Alfonso Ramirez was only eleven years old at the time when the family including his older brother Otto Petersen, went to the library for safety. Ramirez says it was a traumatic time as they listened to the deafening sounds of howling winds and flying debris. Ramirez says as the rapidly rising water filled the ground floor everyone frantically ran up the stairs.

Alfonso Ramirez
?And when we got upstairs there was no roof but we were safe. We continued to get wet upstairs and when we thought that the water was going to overcome us, the grown-ups were thinking about passing us to a roof on the adjoining building.?

Otto Petersen
?I have met more than a few people that express the desire to live a hurricane, but I don?t think I would like anybody to go through a hurricane because it is terrible. Nowadays you have more concrete buildings and you might feel safer but definitely the older buildings and being outdoors you have to be indoors you have to be protected. The best thing is to get away from the city.?

It was an especially scary time for Emelda Ramirez, who was twenty-four years old and pregnant.

Emelda Ramirez, Survivor, Hurricane Hattie
?And when that wind stops it is something people should know because you think well it?s all over. We had seen the tree fall and it was a big tree and then everything was calm. The church bells were ringing with the breeze and that stopped, so it seemed to be so peaceful and then the water came in so quick. It was a quick thing, when we were going up the stairs some of the stairs were covered. We reached upstairs and looked down it was like we couldn?t see the stairs at all.?

Almost a half century later, Alfonso Ramirez has taken his memory of Hurricane Hattie and written a short story about the experience. Today excerpts from the publication were read to the standard three students of Holy Redeemer School. Ramirez says it was important for him to record an important part of history.

Alfonso Ramirez
?One of things is that history should be recorded. If we only tell our stories by word of mouth after so many years you start to lose some of the information. But if you put it down in writing it is saved for eternity and that is one of the things I wanted to do. Forty-five years after Hattie everybody is much concerned, so everybody prepares and does what is right when a hurricane is coming.?

It is estimated that seventy-five percent of the old capital?s infrastructure was significantly damaged by Hurricane Hattie.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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