It’s kind of amazing that it was just seven months ago that we were all thanking God for minimizing the damage that Hurricane Irma might have done when she made landfall here on Marco. That’s not to say that damage wasn’t done, for she left her share of wreckage and heartache behind her, but she spared us the terrible ravages of the storm surge some were predicting due to the slight shift to the east of her track and the breakup of the back of the storm.
Some of the condominiums along our beautiful beach suffered damage, but as soon as the storm moved out of our area and it was safe for residents to return, the massive mobilization of skilled professionals and volunteers rolled up their sleeves and began the process of recovery.
Our city staff, first responders and utility workers were prepared and started to implement their plans to put the island back together.
Throughout the island repairs and rebuilding of condominiums, single family homes and businesses is continuing. Our neighbors in Goodland, Everglades City and Immokalee, who were hit much harder than us, continue to claw their way back to normalcy. They were comforted knowing many groups and individuals stepped up to assist them in their time of need and continue to do so today.
Some here felt our “season,” which is the lifeblood to many in our community, would be seriously impacted. However, due to the hard work of many here on Marco, businesses began to reopen their doors. At the same time their wonderful sense of community would be demonstrated on a day-to-day basis, as they would continue to assist those who had little, while working to rebuild their own businesses and personal lives.
It was hard to believe that our community could rebound in such a strong way, but that’s not to say there have not been challenges moving forward, but we will work our way through those as they become evident and we push forward to finding solutions to those issues.
I really do believe that Americans tend to excel best when under pressure and they have to deal with adversity. We are not a people that tend to roll over and bemoan our situations. Instead we rise to the challenges that present themselves to us with a renewed sense of purpose and energy. We have a dedication to overcoming those hurdles and persevering, when others might falter and quit.
Today, we watch as our neighbors and friends pack up and prepare to return to their homes and families to the north. The car carriers are here and they begin to load many of the vehicles with those strange license plates. They are returning to places that I just shiver thinking about. Back to New England, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota, Indiana and so many other places where people have to wear socks, sweaters and heavy coats.
I have the privilege of meeting many of our visitors during their stays here. They marvel at how great the island looked upon their arrival here and can’t believe we weathered that storm on September 10, 2017 so well. Well, I guess they should have been with my good friend Mike Daniels and his crews as they guided their equipment through the streets, clearing away trees and downed utility lines to make them safe and passable before they could be open to the public.
They should have been here as the volunteers and city staff manned their posts during the height of the storm. Those wonderful people were separated from their families and could only pray for their safe keeping while the storm approached.
Much had been done and by the time our northern visitors came across the Jolley Bridge and returned to their homes and condos, settling in for another “season” here in paradise. Many could hardly tell there had been serious damage to some of the residences here on the island.
The golf courses had been cleared of downed trees and the greens were well manicured. The tennis courts were open for business, but were backed up for court times as usual.
Restaurants were doing a thriving business all over the island and the wait time for your table seemed intolerable. New businesses were opening and the parking lots continued to be the most challenging gauntlet to overcome.
It was hard to believe that only a few months ago many of us shook our heads and wondered how we would get all the work done to prepare the island for another onslaught of seasonal residents and visitors, but it did get done and that work continues today.
It seems it was yesterday we were watching the car carriers coming southbound across the bridge bringing our friends and neighbors back. Today we stand in awe, watching those same friends and neighbors leaving to return to their northern homes, families and grandkids. It seemed as though they just arrived.
You’ve done the impossible Marco, and you’ve done it with style and class. You’ve done it due to the great efforts of many. We now move forward to finish the work to be done, while the island and many of those workers here in paradise take a huge sigh of relief from a very busy and challenging season as we look forward to finishing the job ahead.
Steve Stefanides, well-known by his nickname “Stef,” is an experienced award-winning reporter of local civic and public interest news. Stef’s More Straight Talk column (and its predecessor, Straight Talk), on a variety of subjects, is a favorite of readers who trust him to bring them the facts. A Marco Island resident, Stef contributes to the community in many ways, having served on a number of city committees, charitable groups, boards and local organizations. Contact him by email at Stef@coastalbreezenews.com