Everyone has a bucket list of some sort, things they want to do in their lifetimes.
In my dad’s case, one wish on his bucket list was to take his family on a vacation to Florida, and he fulfilled that wish in August 1969.
One problem, a big, nasty one, however, was a hurricane, Camille, lurking in the Atlantic Ocean and heading for landfall somewhere in the United States.
We tracked the hurricane as we traveled down the coast toward Florida, on edge the entire time as it meandered in the ocean.
We continued to track it as we visited Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Marineland, and all the east coast attractions north of Miami.
Every morning when we arose we turned on the television news to get an idea of where it would go next, and that continued as we crossed the state to the gulf coast, where we visited Tampa and Clearwater Beach.
It was at a hotel in Clearwater Beach that we learned Camille had turned into a monster and was going to avoid making landfall in Florida but strike Mississippi, and as a 14-year-old kid, I had no concept that our gain would be somebody else’s loss.
It was, in a most tragic way, as Camille slammed the gulf coast as a Category 5 Hurricane with death and destruction, but safe in our travels, we had no idea of what was coming as we ventured to Silver Springs and its glass bottom boats.
Waking the next day in our motel room, the words from the “Today Show” host were ominous, “Hurricane Camille has devastated portions of Virginia.”
Remember, these were the days before cell phones or I-phones, mass-market computers or e-mail, and we had to phone from our room to relatives back home to find out if Halifax County was still on the map.
I had a personal stake in that call, as I was boarding my dog in the kennel of Dr. Daniels in Riverdale, and selfish me, all I could think of was my pet, rather than the millions of people suffering from one of the strongest hurricanes in history.
To make a long story short, Camille made a right-hand turn in the Ohio Valley and slammed Virginia as a tropical storm, dumping almost two feet of rain in places like Nelson County and killing more than 150 people.
Monday marked the 50th anniversary of Camille hitting Virginia, but no celebrations were planned, rather solemn remembrances of family members lost, a night of horror that will never be forgotten.
With the memories of Katrina, Maria, Yutu and Andrew, each of those hurricanes striking the U.S. since 1992, Camille ranks second in the list of most intense landfalling hurricanes in the history of the United States, behind only the Labor Day hurricane of 1935.
Due to the death — over 250 Americans — and destruction from Camille, estimated at over $1 billion in the United States alone — 1969 dollars, mind you — the name Camille was retired after the 1969 hurricane season.Good riddance to a bad memory.