Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Help Me Howard: I'm Alive
Are you alive? Silly question -- unless you can't prove it. Imagine it: Your proof of birth is wiped out in a hurricane -- meaning you can't get any ID -- meaning you can't vote, fly, cash a check, do anything. It happens more than you might believe and it's so unbelievable, one woman said, "Enough. Help Me Howard." Here is Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- If you want to know what it's like to live in the same house in Hialeah for 50 years or to have spent all 84 years of your life in South Florida, just ask Myldred.
Myldred Walker: "It was just nice. Everybody knew everybody else's business. I don't remember there being any problems."
Myldred grew up in a town I can bet you have never heard of: Okeelanta, which is near Lake Okeechobee.
Myldred Walker: "You could go fishing anytime, and you didn't just go fishing, you could catch a fish."
And Myldred was living there when that deadly hurricane of 1928 blew through.
Her family survived by getting on a boat in a canal, but 1,800 of their neighbors drowned when Lake Okeechobee broke its levees.
Myldred Walker: "When we came out the next morning everything was flooded, and there were animals and people in the water."
Life slowly got back to normal, Myldred grew up and remembers getting her first driver's license.
Myldred Walker: "I paid 50 cents for it at the drug store."
Patrick Fraser: "That's how you got it back then?"
Myldred Walker: "I swear!"
She didn't need any proof of her birth because everybody knew everybody. Then, a few years ago she quit driving, her license expired, and her trouble began.
Myldred Walker: "I went to the bank the other day, and I couldn't get money out of my own bank account because I didn't have an updated picture ID."
Simple enough, Tina and Myldred went to a nearby driver's license office to get a new ID, and the state told 84-year-old Myldred Walker that there was no "Myldred Walker."
Tina Woodhall: "We found out the birth records were destroyed in 1928, in the hurricane from the town where she was born."
And with no record found, Myldred is not alive. The good news, she jokes, is it means she can't die.
Myldred Walker: "I wonder if they'll be able to bury me if I don't get an ID."
Patrick Fraser: "They might just make you stay here."
Myldred Walker: "How about that?"
But seriously -- without being able to show an ID to prove you are who you say you are, Myldred can't live a normal life.
Myldred Walker: "I want a picture ID, so I can vote, so I can get in the courthouse, cash checks or whatever. I'm sure that this is done to protect somebody, but it sure wasn't protecting me."
Myldred laughs about it, but Tina knows it's really bothering her.
Tina Woodhall: "We're going to get you ID. We're going to make you exist again."
But how do you get an ID when the records of your birth were destroyed long before most of us were born? To find out, Myldred called Help Me Howard.
Howard Finkelstein: "After Sept. 11th, the requirements to get a license or ID card got very strict. It depends upon what documentation you do have. For example, if you have a passport that will work. But contact the state DMV, because they have access to more records and greater discretion."
And give the state's Division of Motor Vehicles credit; after we contacted them, they did what the local office could not -- they dug into their records and found Myldred's 1992 application for a license. With that and her other information, it was enough to prove Myldred is Myldred and can get an ID to prove it.
Tina Woodhall: "She looks nervous."
With that paperwork, Myldred's existence came back to life and her smiling 84-year-old face graces a Florida ID.
Myldred Walker: "Feels wonderful. Now I can vote!"
Tina Woodhall: "Now you can cash a check!"
And most importantly for us, Myldred is happy.
Tina Woodhall: "Oh, I think it's wonderful, and thank you, Help Me Howard!"
Myldred Walker: "They did a good job, didn't they? You see all the wrinkles and everything!"
Patrick Fraser: "I hope when I am 85 I am half as sharp as Myldred. Of course, first I'd like to get to 85."
By the way, Howard mentioned using a passport to get an ID; that's a good option because the passport office will sometimes accept things like a baptismal certificate or childhood medical records to prove you are who you say you are.
An old problem sapping the youth out of you? Need someone to ID a solution? Contact us, we have all kinds of records -- sometimes we can even find some of them.
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