The sun will always shine again.
It’s time to rebuild. Pick up the pieces. Take care of your neighbor. Food. Water. Power. Every family deserves that… and it is coming.
Irma took that serene, salty air peace from a rare gem that countless have enjoyed, but the Florida Keys is as wild as she is beautiful… and she will blossom in days… weeks… months. Color with return. Trees will bare new leaves. The water will purify itself. The sea life will persevere. The people will add one more patch of honor to their chests for living through the devastation and rebuilding together. The community. Our state. Neighboring states… the country, the military, the government, the non-profits. Everyday people. They’re with us.
It hurts… though. I feel my eyes swollen with tears. I feel for those who lost it all. I feel for those who begged for water with signs outside their doors… unable to keep going outside hopeful they had heard someone outside that time. Their tired, aging bodies couldn’t take it. Again. It hurts.
I look closely at the palm trees at my family home that I remember as a small child. their roots not strong enough. Blown. Spun around. Twisted. Life taken from them as they are ripped out of the ground or torn in half. They lay there on the ground… the wind and salt water burned their tough exterior. Others suffering the same fate.
The once crystal clear water… murky. The school of parrot fish bigger than I had ever seen swimming past my dock weeks prior replaced with nothingness. Just dark shadows below the surface. Is that roofing material? Or something else… sunk?
Irma was a beast. The oceanside ended up in the bay in parts of Islamorada and what couldn’t hold on tight… went with it. Several feet, not inches, of water flooded our homes. I turn the door knob. Sand at my feet as I walk inside my family’s home for the first time days later when I am off work. The water had receded, but mother nature left signs. She had been there.
As Keys homeowners and business owners, we could drive into the Keys–thankfully. We need to start the cleanup and recovery.
Our shuttered Rain Barrel stands proud north of our home as does ‘Betsy the Lobster.’ She usually has a massive audience… surrounded by tourists trying to squeeze her into a selfie. While she is just a statue, she brings so much joy. A laugh. A grin.
Instead, we must find comfort in the utility truck parked out front.
Relief. A sign. Progress.
I thought about the hard hit islands further south. I was there… past that Florida Highway Patrol/Army National Guard road block on MM74 Wednesday. I saw Marathon to Key West before they reopened a portion of it today to evacuees who left a home or business behind.
I flew there with Governor Rick Scott from the Homestead Air Reserve Base on a UH-60 Black Hawk. National Guard Major General Michael A. Calhoun who serves as the Adjutant General of Florida to my right. The Governor on his right… stares out at the devastation. The doors left open.
We traveled in humvees… stopping to talk to homeowners, some staring blankly at their homes. Picking up pictures in their front lawns that belonged to neighbors. A childs chair. A tire. Someone’s sofa. The shock. The loss.
In Big Pine Key, though, we met Marion Becker outside her mobile home. She had lived there for decades. A fierce older woman who weathered the storm with a neighbor down the street, but returned soon after.
She recognized the governor, although she wasn’t at first sure, then thanked him. I asked on camera… What did she need? What did she want?
Marion told me she was just taken to the newly opened grocery store and has peanut butter among other foods. She’s good there… for today, but she wants more water and she needs to call her sister in New York to tell her she is all right. Cell service was non-existent then. That hour. That day. I prayed for even one bar… staring at my cell phone trying to will it. Nothing. So, I jotted her sisters name and number down, and I called her soon after my feet touched the ground in Homestead.
She answered. An equally sweet woman. In her voice… an insurmountable amount of relief. She said she hoped her sister knows how much she loves her. She thanked me, and as I told her she didn’t need to… I understood.
Love for family, friends, neighbors, strangers. Our shared land. Our homes. Our community… Always wins. In death. Destruction. Loss. Man-made or naturally occurring. Love wins. Love rebuilds. Love binds us. Love allows us to persevere.