After The Storm

For the past several years, my husband and I have chosen to celebrate our birthdays by taking a short trip together, and this year my husband chose to go to Sanibel Island. We had booked our trip for the third weekend in September long before anyone started talking about Hurricane Irma.  But when the category-five hurricane hit southwest Florida in early September, we figured our chances of celebrating my husband’s birthday on Sanibel Island ranged from small to none.  Honestly, we knew our disappointment over a cancelled trip was absolutely nothing compared to the hardship endured by those in the hurricane’s path.  The televised images of Irma’s landfall were devastating and the suffering it caused was beyond heart-breaking.

After the hurricane, we followed the news to see the extent of the damage, partly to know when we would be able to contact the resort in order to cancel our reservations.  Since Sanibel is a barrier island just fifty–some miles from Naples, which took a direct hit, we weren’t even sure if the resort would still be standing.  Both my husband and I love Sanibel Island and have visited it many times since we discovered it over thirty years ago.  It was painful to realize there was a very real possibility that the hurricane had destroyed the island, or damaged it beyond recognition.

Amazingly, Sanibel sustained very little damage from the hurricane that wreaked so much havoc on other parts of Florida and the Caribbean.  We checked the city’s official web page obsessively,  so we knew when electricity and water service was restored, when the streets and been cleared of the tangle of branches and trees, and when businesses began to reopen.  Then the resort actually called us to say they were up and running and ready for visitors.

Part of me felt guilty for even thinking of going on vacation in a state where so many people were still struggling with tremendous loss.  But we went ahead with our trip for two reasons.  One, we knew that Sanibel (like much of Florida) has an economy that is directly tied to tourism and losing that income would make it even harder to recover from the hurricane.  Secondly, both of us felt a strong need to see for ourselves that our beloved Sanibel Island really was okay.

And it was.  True, the signs of the hurricane were everywhere, from the piles of uprooted trees and torn limbs by the side of the road waiting to be picked up, to the hand-lettered “We’re Open!” signs outside many stores and restaurants.  We saw utility trucks from all over the country as workers continued to restore power to nearby communities.  And everywhere we went, people would ask each other  “How are you doing?”  “Is your power back on yet?”  “Did your house sustain much damage?”  Perfect strangers were constantly offering each other encouragement and support as they traded stories of surviving the hurricane.

IMG_3566I have always believed Sanibel Island is a beautiful place.  And this visit didn’t change my view, despite the signs of damage and the piles of debris from the storm.  Because this time, the beauty I saw wasn’t limited to the palm trees and the sandy white beaches.  This time, I saw a community coming together through hope and hard work, repairing the damage and moving forward with determination and optimistic pride.  And that was the most beautiful thing of all.

70 thoughts on “After The Storm

    • What’s that old saying, “Whatever doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger?” I think there is some truth to that! Sometimes surviving the worst can bring out the best in people. That’s what we saw in Florida this weekend….

      Liked by 3 people

  1. I actually thought of you when I was following the hurricane (safe from the west coast) and heard Sanibel Island mentioned in the reports. I’ve never been there but from your posts, I know that it is quite beautiful and near and dear to your hearts. I’m glad to know that they came out pretty well. I’m sure they appreciated your business.

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    • It was amazing to me that they could be so close to areas that were hit hard and yet have so little damage! If you ever get the chance, please visit it, I think you will love it. And yes, we felt that we were appreciated there as tourists, although we did feel a little weird visiting an area so soon after a hurricane. It was a fine line to walk, but I’m glad we went. Their attitude was inspiring!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “But we went ahead with our trip for two reasons. One, we knew that Sanibel (like much of Florida) has an economy that is directly tied to tourism and losing that income would make it even harder to recover from the hurricane.”
    I loved this thought process of yours Ann. Wonder how many would actually think this way…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Happy birthday to your beloved!! I read stories about the destruction caused by Irma all over and it was just sad. I’m glad that this little island – Sanibel didn’t survive lot of damage and you could make the trip and share the whole experience with us☺️☺️

    Good day, Charu

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, it was good to see that this island was spared! I only wish everyone was, as I know so many people lost everything. The only good thing is to see how much help is pouring into Florida (and the other areas hit), as that gives them hope. Thanks for the comment!

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  4. Visiting so soon after the hurricane, and witnessing the strength and determination of the locals, seems to have expanded your perspective and appreciation of this special place. It is ironic how a natural disaster can destroy so much, yet foster growth in the human spirit and fortify the relationships that unite us.

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  5. Happy Birthday to your husband and what a great gift that you both were still able to go and that the resort you visit was operational after all that hapoened. Sometimes the best gifts or moments come as a result of sadness and difficulties. You proved that by giving that region what it needed and hearing so much hope and kindness from the people who braved that storm.
    Hopefully your next visit will reflect even more progress…:)

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    • Yes, I hope so too! We were both so surprised that we were still able to go on this trip, and so inspired by the attitudes we saw and the way people really did seem to be helping each other. I agree, sometimes something very good can come out of even the worst tragedies. I hope that the aid continues so that people who live in the hard-hit areas can get their lives back to normal as soon as possible!

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    • They really did. Sanibel didn’t suffer really serious damage, which makes the recovery much easier. But people are working hard to restore areas that were hit very hard, with people helping each other to get their lives back. As destructive as the hurricane was, it did bring out the best in a lot of people.

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    • Thanks, Mick. At first we felt a little embarrassed to tell people we were just visiting when they asked us if our house had been damaged, but no one seemed to be put out by it. I think that they were grateful for the business, as it really is the core of much of the economy throughout the state. And their “can do” attitude was inspiring.

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  6. I was on Sanibel Island decades back when my boys were very little. Such a beautiful part of the world. Great you went ahead with your trip which indicated support to locals,and allowed them to receive the income they depend on in times of need

    Taking trips in celebration of birthdays is something we love to do too.

    Tragic consequences of climate change this season in so many regions!!
    Pea

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, the weather we have been experiencing these past few years just seems to be getting worse and worse, doesn’t it? I’m glad Sanibel was spared, this time at least.
      And I love the photos and stories on your blog of all your travels! If I can travel even ten percent as much as you have, I will count myself lucky!

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  7. Disasters seem to bring out the best in most people. Here in Houston most people were rescued by volunteers and the streets were filled with the cars of volunteers cleaning out strangers’ houses. I’m glad you were able to go and your visit was very important to businesses. As soon as one reopens here, it becomes packed with customers showing their support.

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  8. Until I read your post, I had not heard about this tropical island of Sanibel. Its beauty attracted you to visit it again on your husband’s birthday. You so wondrously described how the people there responded to the disastrous effects hurricane Irma had caused. You did the right thing, Ann, by going to Sanibel to help in a small way to revive tourism in that area. I was deeply touched by your post.

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    • Thank you Peter! It was an unusual, but inspiring visit. It was so good to see how people were helping each other….my husband said that he heard there were literally dozens of utility trucks that came down from Canada to help clean up and restore power. That’s the kind of thing that restores our faith in human nature!

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  9. Hello,
    I agree with you, It’s a beautiful island. But, all Atlantic or Pacific islands are beautiful. Presently, I’m at school at Victoria (B.C) in Canada and that’s wonderful. The weather, never rains in the summer, not too hot, but still warm like everywhere in Canada. I’m born with Asthma, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and a bad health. I’m 60 years old and start to have some complications with my health. In the last 7 years, I travel Canada to Los Angeles in California. The best place in the world for me. Weather is almost perfect (27 degrees Celcius at Year, 360 days of sun), the pictures are Romanesque and the place to visit is? (No comment, I can name all that It exist) Disney, The beach on the West Coast (Malibu, Santa-Monica, Long beach, etc). That probably take 6 months to visit everything. I heard that the south of the France is the same. I went to Toulouse 2 years ago, It’s fantastic too.
    Thank you for your pics, and have a good day,

    Liked by 2 people

    • I hope to visit that part of Canada some day, as I have heard it is quite beautiful. You’re right, most islands are wonderful, no matter where they are located. And I was lucky enough to spend a day in the south of France and would go back in a heartbeat!

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  10. I forgot,
    I was on the East Coast before Chrismas time last year and I traveled on the north of Carolina after a hurricane. Do you know what I remember? Not the disaster, But ……….
    They were TOGETHER to rebuilt the city. Together, that’s unbelievable how humans are good and strong. I will never understand, why they need a hurricane?
    Have a good one, 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I’ve just had a wander along the shoreline via Google maps and it’s fabulous and beautiful, I’m not surprised you wanted to go there.

    I think that when people get together to help each other, that’s when the true human spirit comes out. I’m glad you experienced that through all the terrible times they had been through.

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    • Yes, it was an unexpected benefit to the disaster of the hurricane. I still feel so sorry for those who lost so much, and know that it will be a long time before they get their lives back totally. But for whatever reason, Sanibel was spared the worst of the damage, and they have really come together to support each other. I saw similar conversations throughout the Ft. Myers area, which was hit much harder. Sometimes it does seem to take a disaster to bring out the best in people!

      Liked by 1 person

      • In the UK, amongst older people (my elders but also now us, I suppose) it’s referred to as ‘the wartime spirit’ – that coming together and pulling together that people did during the world wars.

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  12. It is a beautiful place I have had the privilege of experiencing. Glad you got to go there and celebrate. I am sure your visit was appreciated by many. So glad it was not adversely affected by the storm!!

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  13. The strength and determination on the faces of those who have lost so much brings tears. A community coming together to make it home again is truly beautiful. I am glad you went. You brought home that beauty and shared it here. Thank you, Ann.

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    • We were so happy we made the trip! It was amazing to see how much people were helping each other, and comforting to know that Sanibel had no heavy damage. I just wish the hurricane had missed land altogether, but am heartened by the outpouring of support. I hope it lasts!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. This is a lovely post. We usually go on a cruise to the Caribbean or Bermuda every summer, although a few summers we haven’t. When we got the cruise info in the mail the other day, I automatically said to my well we should go to Bermuda because they weren’t hit by hurricanes. And then I stopped. Obviously we don’t want to spend thousands of dollars to go to a place that isn’t ready yet. But these islands we go to (this year, for the first time, we went to St. Maarten and Puerto Rico) really need the tourism dollars. I’m sure that there will be shop stalls set up and out door cafes and restaurants. We aren’t beach people so that doesn’t matter to us. But we have begun to rethink our decision. We love Bermuda so it has nothing to do with that. I’m sure that the resilience of the hurricane survivors will have them ready for the visitors that are so vital for the island economy.

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    • I think that is a great idea! While we don’t want to go too soon, before they are ready and we may just be in the way, once they are ready for tourists, I think they will desperately need the income. So many people have lost not only their houses, but their livelihood as well. I’m not surprised you are making this decision, as you are a very caring person!

      Liked by 1 person

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