the storm of the century
(the 1935 labor day hurricane song)
words and music by chris foster © january 9th 2003.
the keys are the islands along florida bay
there a paradise found for most all.
the locals all live the fine life everyday
only few still alive may recall.
about the sea and its fury when it was torn by the gales
and how nothing could stand in its way
saltw*ter canyons made of 30 feet swales
that came ash*r* one labor day
the pressure was falling the tides on the move.
it was nothing liked we’d ever seen
winds from the north waves from the south
and a small piece of land in between.
we boarded up windows, pulled in our boats
made our havens as safe as could be
we couldn’t imagine what was to be
everything would end up in the sea.
ii.the storm started coming the pressure was dropping
large waves started hitting the beach
lighting was flashing, timbers were flying
and safety was clear out of reach.
the railroad was sent from south of miami
to rescue us but to no avail
a wave washed the train cars right off of the track
and it ate 30 miles of the rail
the wind knock me over i grabbed my sister
and she clang to me for her young life
she couldn’t hang on despite fear in her eyes
and her fingernails digging like knives
i whispered i love you as she drifted away
then some sand blasted me in the eye
i found refuge on the top of a tree
placed there by the 20 foot tide.
iiii awoke the next morning after being unconscious
the storm of the century had past
the slow falling rain mixed with tears in my eyes
as i wondered who all didn’t last
no blade of gr*ss no tree left standing
every building was washed out to sea
dazed and confused i stood comprehending
what my eyes told me to see.
where is my family, where is my home
they were nowhere in sight, someone said
i sat by the water with my head in my hands
wondering if i was better off dead?
i had to go on, they needed my help
as we mournfully stacked all the dead
we all said a prayer then we lit them on fire
its an image that won’t leave my head
iv.great walls of water swallowed some whole
in a battle between god and man
four hundred twenty three lives were the toll
and i will never quite understand
an 18-foot monument stands off us 1
with remains of so many who died.
words of remembrance with the date etched in bronze
september 2nd 1935
i am so lucky that i’m hear to retell
god gave me a final reprieve
nothing short of a miracle surviving the gales
as i desperately held to a tree
now i share the memory with family and friends
sleepless nights sure have riddled my life
remembering all of the lives lost that day
is a memory that cuts like a knife.
artist notes: this song was crafted from 2 accounts of the storm. j.e. duane who worked for the weather bureau and was stationed in the keys and from bernard russell who is a life long resident of the keys. after many weeks of trying to capture the power of the storm in words, i thought the human element of telling the story from the perspective of a survivor would yield the most vivid images of imagination. only about 10 people still alive could ever relate to the true horror of this event. in the writing of the song, it picked up momentum once i read mr. duane’s log notes. the details of events. it seemed to give the song the backbone it needed. the personal side of the song is all bernard.