News Article: "Hugo Devastates - A family awaits word on daughter"



News Article: "Hugo Devastates - A family awaits word on daughter"

Catalog Entry

"Typhoon Hagibis: at least 25 dead as thousands join rescue efforts"

These are just some of the headlines made by natural disasters. Natural disasters are natural events that include earthquakes, floods, and typhoons, which can cause massive damage and destroy many lives. They are  also defined as “a situation that causes inconsistency in social or community performance resulting in extensive humanitarian, economic or environmental damages" (Sheikhbardsiri). Natural disasters often result in the destruction of homes and property, leaving many people and communities in ruin. People with disabilities in particular can be immensely impacted by natural disasters. Tamera (Tammy) Marcinuk, a deaf Olympic skier from Fitchburg, MA, was one such victim.

Tammy won nine medals in total: “five gold, one silver and three bronze” (“In Memoriam: Tammy Marcinuk"), but also had a masters degree in elementary education from BU. She had gone to teach deaf students in St. Croix, Puerto Rico, when Hurricane Hugo went through in 1989. After Hurricane Hugo’s aftermath, many had no contact with their loved ones in that area, and Tammy’s mother Lucille was no exception as she waited  to hear word on her daughter. No one knew Tammy’s whereabouts, even though she was well-known in the area. Tammy's disability could have been the reason she was not found sooner, as she was unable to hear the calls and announcements being used to locate missing persons. Luckily, the disaster team was eventually able to locate her in Puerto Rico, but this is just an example of how natural disasters have a huge impact on the disability community.

People with disabilities, especially physical disabilities, can have a hard time adjusting when a natural disaster occurs or when it is necessary for evacuation.  It can be very time consuming and difficult for those with certain disabilities to be able to flee before disaster strikes, leaving them much more vulnerable: "If the international community’s desire is to protect the population from disaster risks, during these discussions, greater attention  must be paid to persons living with a disability" (Walbaum). With that being said, the disabled communities are not always informed about the events that occur in the world, which is greatly in part due to  information being inaccessible to those with visual, hearing, and/or movement impairments. Another factor could be how easily they are able to prepare themselves in light of a storm or event. If they're unable to obtain supplies that could help them, or receive assistance from others, it will leave them more vulnerable and less likely to survive either the event itself or the aftermath. This is a reason why some members of the disabled community lean towards non-profit organizations and faith-founded organizations to get prepared for these dangerous occasions. Some of these organizations are equipped to prepare individuals with disabilities for predicted natural disasters. Even though the community should  come together as a whole in the aid of those with disabilities, the responsibilities of that task have fallen on the shoulders of these non-profit and faith-based organizations.

There may be some support from the “outside” community, but the disabled community mostly depends on each other during these hard times. There are some remarkable stories that have shown how people with disabilities have leaned on each other to survive some natural disasters. Brent Lowe, a blind man who lived in the Bahamas, survived Hurricane Dorian with his son who was also disabled. Lowe’s son had cerebral palsy, and he could not walk. During Hurricane Dorian, Lowe’s house was being torn up into many pieces and the hurricane had caused flooding in his neighborhood. Feeling like he had no other option, Lowe picked up his 24-year-old disabled son and placed him on his shoulders. With the help of his neighbors, Lowe and his son were able to reach safety at a hospital.  (Ellis and Burnett). This story shows how, with the help of others, someone with a disability can truly survive the worst events.

Helping each other is important, however it is also important that those living with certain disabilities take steps to prepare themselves. For example, there are special vibrating tornado alarms for people with hearing impairments who couldn't hear sirens.


Adams, Vincanne, et al. “Aging Disaster: Mortality, Vulnerability, and Long-Term Recovery among Katrina Survivors.” Medical Anthropology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 2011,

Ellis, Ralph, and Erin Burnett. "Blind Bahamas man carried his disabled son to safety as Hurricane Dorian raged." CNN, 6 Sept. 2019,

“In Memoriam: Tammy Marcinuk.” USA Deaf Sports Federation, 12 Oct. 2018,

Sheikhbardsiri, Hojjat, et al. “Rehabilitation of Vulnerable Groups in Emergencies and Disasters: A Systematic Review.” World Journal of Emergency Medicine, vol. 8, no. 4, 2017, pp. 253–263. EBSCOhost, doi:10.5847/wjem.j.1920–8642.2017.04.002.

Walbaum, Véronique. "Persons with Disabilities: Among the First Victims of National Disasters." Agence Française de Développement, 3 Dec. 2014,

Artifact Owner

Fitchburg Historical Society

Artifact Condition

This artifact is in good condition. Copy of the original.

Artifact Material


Catalog Entry Author(s)

Jeanie Djokotoe, Student, Fitchburg State University


Andrea Pellizzari, Student, Fitchburg State University



“News Article: "Hugo Devastates - A family awaits word on daughter",” Cultural Heritage through Image, accessed February 4, 2023,

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