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    Marjorie Barber: Gun-toting camper still loyal to mobile home park

    By Times staff writers
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published August 20, 2002

    Hurricane Andrew wrecked virtually every mobile home in the Homestead area. Marjorie Barber's was no exception.

    "Everything was just splintered and flattened," she recalls.

    After the storm, a determined Barber returned to the Goldcoaster Mobile Home RV Park and pitched a tent atop the wreckage.

    For two weeks she camped there, taking turns with her brother guarding what was left of their family's possessions with a shotgun.

    The image of the gun-toting camper amid the rubble appeared in a host of publications, including several Florida newspapers and National Geographic.

    One night she nearly killed a looter.

    "I had no problem with that," she recalled recently. "But I'm glad I didn't."

    Her capacity for violence surprised her.

    "It gets to the point," she said, "when you've had everything taken away from you already, and then somebody comes in . . . and they want to take what little you have left, it brings out an instinct in you that you don't even know is there."

    Barber still has a scrapbook of photos from her 15 minutes of post-Andrew fame. She took it with her six years ago when she moved into a new mobile home in the Goldcoaster.

    For four years after the storm she lived in Kendall, about 15 miles north of the Goldcoaster. But she returned because she missed Homestead. It's peaceful there.

    She thinks the city is on an upswing again, thanks to a motorsports complex and new stores, such as Wal-Mart in nearby Florida City.

    "Actually I guess the storm did us a lot of good," she said, though she never wants to see another one.

    These days the Goldcoaster is about as full as it was 10 years ago, she said. Her new mobile home is one street over from where her old one stood. That lot, she said, "has been vacant ever since."

    As bad as it was, Andrew taught her an important lesson.

    "We lived through it," she said. "We have our lives and our health. The rest you can buy or rebuild."

    -- JACK ROWLAND and CRAIG PITTMAN

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