For the first time since Hurricane Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys our family made our way down to visit family effected by the hurricane. You may ask yourself what has taken so long but with our children being so young we weren’t sure how they would react. On top of the fact that having access to clean water or even electricity in most areas was concerning to have our children exposed.
On the drive down I didn’t put much thought into it, I didn’t warn them about anything we just drove like we would any other time. It wasn’t until we made it to Key Largo that it hit me. I saw piles of trees at every corner, once what were empty lots now filled with electronics ranging from refrigerators , ovens and televisions. Another lot filled with what looked like wood chips to be later be told those are people’s homes.
It felt like going back in time
I want to step back before the hurricane hit when we started to track the storm. If you have lived in the Florida Keys like our family has you get use to the idea of being “hurricane alley” it’s just part of the life when you live down there. It doesn’t mean you prepare any less than anyone else you just know what needs to get done and when. We are all so used to going in and out of the cone of uncertainty. So as the storm got closer many left but others weren’t as happy about having to leave.
During the mandatory evacuations not many wanted to leave for two reasons either because they didn’t think anything would happen and or because they wanted to be able save their property. I personally had become very upset with my mom who didn’t want to leave thinking it would be nothing out of the normal rain and a little wind. We later found videos of the flooding so bad in her neighborhood that cars were under water. After over a week of Hurricane Irma making landfall the roads were starting to open for certain towns/cities for residents to head back in. Reports started to flow about the damage done to the homes and businesses. Many were still not able to head back in because roads had been washed away, not having clean water from the pipes breaking and of course the amount of debris.
Once I arrived to Marathon where my family lives I couldn’t help the urge to cry. My town, the town I lived in for 18 years was once again hit by a Hurricane but this time it hit us hard. It took whatever it wanted, wherever it wanted. It took the lives of many. If you have ever been to any part of the Florida Keys you know it’s your typical small town with very limited stores and resources. The choices for completing your shopping are Winn Dixie and Publix. The Winn Dixie is still closed and the residents don’t know if and when it will reopen. The only choice they have is to do all their shopping at Publix and for some they just can’t afford their prices.
The residents are on the fence whether or not to allow tourist back in because on one hand they don’t want them to see the beautiful Florida Keys that way but on the other a lot of the businesses depend on the tourist. When my grandparents brought their five little girls’ from Cuba in the early 1980’s they didn’t go to their because it was a tourist place to be, they didn’t go because they knew they would get federal help every time a hurricane ripped through. They went to start a life, to build a future for their daughters something they would be proud of.
I have heard about an article that was released saying that the Florida Keys residents remain living in the keys to obtain help every time a hurricane help. That the residents should all move and leave the Florida Keys for just the tourist, but please explain how would a place be run without residents? I don’t know of one person that moves to a place happy of the possibilities that they may lose everything they have worked so hard for. I don’t see anyone jumping for joy that their children will need to start a new life or find a new job. What I do see is people coming to enjoy our lifestyle on vacations and buying investment properties.
So please do me a favor plan your next vacation to the Florida Keys, show your children the beautiful beaches, the small town life. Go fishing and see a few Key Deer. Disney will always be around but the way things are going the Florida Keys may not.
These pictures above are personal photos. My grandparents are taking their furniture that is full of mold and placing it back in their home because they don’t have anything else. They have lost everything just as many of the residents .
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