I think back to my dad’s generation and how they rose up when the world was challenged by war and the devastation that would rain upon mankind when tyranny attempted to enslave the free world.
Their contributions to making this the wonderful place we live in today were monumental and have provided the foundation for democracies throughout the world. It took extraordinary sacrifice and commitment on their part, something I think we tend to let slip from our minds from time to time.
Fast forward to today’s world and we find our nation is still committed to accomplishing great triumphs and deeds whenever the challenges present themselves. Our citizens have a special talent for focusing on goals and achieving those great feats.Whether it was when John F. Kennedy called on our spirit of adventure and technological prominence to reach for the moon and set man’s footprint upon it, to the great accomplishment of the 1980 Olympic Hockey Team that went on to defeat the highly favored Russian athletes during that unforgettable final match in Lake Placid, New York. We Americans have always stepped up to challenges that have faced us with great heart and determination.
It seems however, our greatest achievements lie in helping others when they are in need. When Hurricane Katrina roared into the Gulf states, Americans quickly came forward from throughout our nation with great resolve and determination to help in any way possible. Some would donate their talents to help with the rebuilding of many communities they had never heard of, while others would donate time to raise much needed monies to assist their fellow Americans in need and others would generously donate treasure to help fund those efforts; it was Americans doing what they do best.
As we look at Hurricane Irma and the terrible damage she did to our community this last week we must take the time to look at the commitment of our city employees and volunteers that manned their stations throughout the storm to insure the well thought out disaster response plan was implemented with great precision and dedication.
From our Interim City Manager Gil Polanco, who never envisioned a challenge such as this thrust upon him as the city seeks to fill that position so he can return to his role as the city’s Chief Financial Officer. To seasoned emergency services managers such as Fire Rescue Chief Mike Murphy and Marco Police Chief Al Schettino, who relied heavily on their senior staff as they guided those first responders who be put into harm’s way, before, during and after the storm.
Essential staff would operate the EOC (Emergency Operations Center) with skill and professionalism. They come from every position within the city staff. From employees that work in Growth Management, the Building Services Department, Parks and Recreation, the Utility Department to the young man who maintains the building that the EOC is located within and insures you and I are proud of the condition it is kept in.
We should be proud of these men and women who come together to insure our community is well run and safe. We should pause to contemplate whether we would sacrifice so much for so many. Whether we would ask our families to do without our presence in the time of such peril.
We must also think about those outside the city’s boundaries who were embedded at the Collier County EOC and coordinating with our personnel, insuring accurate and timely information was being shared so we could better do our job.
We also should take the time to thank the crews from LCEC who worked long hours and through the night to restore complete power to the island over the several days following Irma’s departure. They too were away from family and loved ones during this trying time.
We often fail to recognize the real heroes around us. They don’t wear flashy helmets, swing a baseball bat or perform at a concert. Those are entertainers, and 16 years ago we came to realize that as our nation sustained a cowardly act of terrorism on 9-11-2001. We watched as countless acts of heroism were performed by first responders and ordinary citizens to help those at the World Trade Center and surrounding buildings. We also watched in horror as many of our citizens and those same first responders and heroic citizens lost their lives in those efforts.
It was ironic that we would stand together with many of our own on that fateful 16 year anniversary of 9-11 at the Marco Island City Hall and hear leaders such as Gil Polanco, Mike Murphy and Al Schettino praise the efforts of our own people here on the island who worked diligently, through the storm and after, to keep our own people safe. Yes, a different event, but the same type of commitment to service above self.
The spirit of resolve I spoke of from my dad’s generation still burns strong in the America I know, especially with those we call neighbors and friends right here on Marco Island. God bless you all, and now let’s get busy rebuilding our island from this terrible event with the great determination, for good I know exists within you all.
Steve Stefanides, well-known by his nickname “Stef,” is an experienced awardwinning 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