Cove hurricane survivor is moving forward but past still haunts her

By  | 

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Last October something sparked the ire of Mother Nature and she lets us know about it by unleashing her fury on the Panhandle, Panama City taking much of the brunt.

Lori Vaughn sits on her porch reflecting on the past year. (WJHG/WECP)

Hamilton Avenue in The Cove area looked like a war zone--houses opened up like sardine cans, trees succumbing like they never had roots, and chainsaws buzzing like a swarm of locusts were invading.

One home on the corner was sporting a gaping wound letting the world intrude upon its privacy.

A year later, a street sign still bears the scars of Mother Nature’s cruelty, but as the saying goes: if there is no struggle, there is no progress. And that definitely rings true in this neighborhood. A new home sits on the foundation where the crippled house once stood. One might say a reincarnation of sorts. Owner Tim McGuffin says he and his wife have moved five times since the storm, and had thoughts of leaving the area for good, but decided to stay.

A few doors down in the midst of the calamity last October we met Lori Vaughn. She opened up about her harrowing experience riding out the storm on the bottom floor of the house where she lived in the third-floor apartment. The gravity of the moment etched into her face.

“When the water got up to my knees down in the basement, that’s when I really started freaking because I thought this was it, you know, I really did," said Vaughn a few days after the storm. "I’ve broken down every, every hour, man. I just keep breaking down and crying because I keep thinking this is…I never thought I would have to leave here, really. It might be a lot of stairs but I never really thought I was going to have to leave here.”

Fast forward one year. Lori has a new place to stay, but her mind, her psyche hasn’t completely caught up. She says she relives October 10, 2018, over and over again.

“Oh yeah, all the time. All the time," said Vaughn. "I think looking out those windows and seeing the trees falling down around us in The Cove there’s nothing but trees everywhere. There were magnolia trees, oak trees, pine trees falling down just everywhere. I'm never going to get past that. And then when the walls started coming out [of my house], you know, and hearing that sound and [saying] what is that? And running in there and seeing the walls flying out, you know, and the chimney coming out [of the wall], you know, all of it. And then having to go down to that basement and then the flooding starting.”

Vaughn believes she’s suffering from PTSD as a result of that October day.

“I've self-diagnosed myself with that," said Vaughn. "I've never had sleeping problems ever in my whole life. Since this hurricane, since that happened to me, I don't sleep. Sometimes I'll wake up in the middle of the night and I just cry my eyes out, you know, and just go back to sleep.”

In a variation of the lyrics of the iconic Beatles song one could say, yesterday, life was such an easy game to play.

“I miss everything. I miss my home. I miss what reality was to me," said Vaughn. "This [my present situation] to me right now is not reality. To me I still feel like it's a dream, you know.”

Vaughn spent 21 years in her third-floor perch in The Cove. She hasn’t been back since.

“No, it's too depressing," said Vaughn.

But she does take comfort she’s not alone trying to cope with it all.

“Absolutely I take comfort in that. I mean, if I didn't have so many friends out there going through the same thing as me, who knows where I'd be right now,” said Vaughn.

But Vaughn says she is confident the rainbow following the rain will appear. Maybe not yet for her, but it will appear.

“Oh, definitely," said Vaughn. "I definitely have high hopes that things are going to get better. It is going to get better.”

A message for all of us.

Copyright 2019 WJHG. All rights reserved.