(Note: Joan maybe referring to Super Tornado Viper that hit Hong Kong in 1954. She was 9 years old, Charles 10 )
It was summer of 1954, and that year Hong Kong had a very bad hurricane season. The winds kept coming and as soon as one storm subsided, the warning would be for one of even greater magnitude to arrive very soon. We were living at the converted warehouse then. The warehouse was not a very sturdy building, and the recent winds had already blown off any loose roof and broken some doors. There were many windows, and definitely not glass windows, so there was no worry of broken windows. The day before, the weather bureau had put out a nine point hurricane warning. I think nine was the highest point the system can assign. That morning, my mother had done some cooking in the courtyard, and had taken the food to the other half of the family staying at the multi-story boarding house. So the four of us were by ourselves. Then all the other occupants started to clear out, and the radio announcer was telling everyone to get out of unsafe places before the winds arrive. At first, we thought it was kind of fun having the whole place to ourselves. The other people had taken most of their belongings with them, so there were just some empty bunk beds remaining. We started to go from room to room, climbing over the partitions instead of going through the door, since some of them are still locked. We climbed into the room whose occupants often yelled at us and messed it up a bit, moving stuff around and one of us even urinated on the floor. This was standard Chinese mischief. Bodily functions always bring about amusement. When we were really little, like 5 or 6, two of us would just tap our rear ends together and sing a funny rhyme with the person’s name in it whenever we want to harass some adult that we don’t like. Then the rains started, and water started pouring in. The roof was flying away. We were scared. Then we decided to go to the boarding house to find the adults. So we ran out of the place, stepping over water and debris and head for the bus stop. It was pretty flooded already around the bus stop too and we had to wait a long time. There weren’t that many people waiting. And there may not even be a bus coming for all we know. The public transportation usually stop running in case of a major hurricane. I think we had to go to quite a few bus stops before we caught a bus. By that time, we were sopping wet, and shivering. A tall American couple both with blonde hair were also waiting for the bus. The man must have felt sorry for us. He came up to us, offering us a 10 dollar American bill. Charles straightened up his back, and proudly said in English :“ We are not beggars. We have money. Thank you very much”. Then he proudly led the rest of us onto the bus. We all beamed with pride after that exchange, even 7 year old Louis was feeling tall and confident. When we got to the boarding house, everyone was there, Father, mother, aunt, Belle and Tony. The adults were not concerned about us at all. My father was surprised and said to us: “Why did you come here?” My mother saw that we were all shivering from the wet clothes. She put us all into the bathtub at the same time to get washed and to get under the covers after we were done. I don’t know how they managed to dry our clothes. There were no washers or dryers then. That was the last of the warehouse. When we went back to the warehouse a few days later to get the rest of our belongings, the entire place had no roof and all the walls had collapsed.