Like everyone these days it seems, it feels like I am on the go all the time. When I got away for a few days this month, I wondered what it would be like to just not come back…just to stay where the waves are.
But obviously that is not an option. So back I am.
This month has been filled with work and volunteering and lots of time in the car and traffic and not enough time at home. Lots of noise.
We finally got back to Sanibel to down to check on our place, post hurricane. We were fine, but my god…on an accidental road trip we found where Irma’s wrath really landed.
We went looking for alligators and we found Everglades City. While we were on the edge of town, deciding which airboat ride to take for our little holiday jaunt, we did not know that less than a kilometre away, pure hurricane devastation had happened.
A guide at Jungle Erv’s made mention of the hurricane in an off hand comment, saying that if you wanted to really see what a hurricane could do, then we should take a drive through the town.
Off we went on our airboat ride, flying through mangroves and meeting a three legged girl gator and her huge gator boyfriend. Pure fun and Florida kitsch. We looked at the t-shirts and alligator key chains and got back into our comfy rental car. And then took that drive the employee suggested.
Everglades City was inundated during the hurricane. It lies at sea level, an original fishing area, tucked away on the edge of a national park. Many of the residents have lived there forever and many of the homes are trailers. They did not stand a chance against Irma. Many residents stayed and witnessed their homes and properties be destroyed, escaping with their safety and practically nothing else. During the flooding, their waste management system was overwhelmed and let loose a dangerous mix of waste into the rising waters…waters that flowed through homes and lives, making a terrible situation even worse.
Piles of belongings lay along side the road. There was an area ( it is still there ) that the locals ( according to local media, because I have read everything about this town now ) began calling Mount Trashmore – a mountain of toys, mattresses, clothing, furniture, broken pieces of hundreds of homes, waiting to be taken away, unusable, defiled by the waters of the storm.
The people of this area are self sufficient, many having weathered many hurricanes, and they did not get the help they needed as fast as they should have for a few reasons. They still need help. Homes are condemned and unliveable. Temporary housing still needs to be organized. Businesses are closed. Businesses that need to open. The school is open but kids are living miles away in homes of family and friends while their own homes sit empty, bare of all their belongings, waiting for the recovery to start.
It is one thing to see photos of devastation on CNN. It is completely another to see it first hand. I can not even imagine what Puerto Rico is experiencing if this is what a town an hour away from affluent Naples looks like.
And what are the people of Everglades city saying? Come and see us, help us get our businesses back up and running, come spend your money here and let’s get back to normal as fast as we can.
So, that is what I will share…anyone going to Florida in the near future, go to Everglades City. Take an airboat ride at Jungle Erv’s. Buy the t-shirt and the alligator key chain ( I wish I had ). Visit the Everglades National Park ( it is aiming to reopen partially for the upcoming winter season ). The seafood is supposed to be amazing…but I could not find any restaurants that were open. They are all damaged. Hell…just stop at the gas station, fill up and buy snacks. Help support these people get back on their feet. It is going to take time.
Here are some articles about the devastation in Everglades City:
The irony of beginning my month of images with picture perfect photos of homes and ending my month realizing what the dirty reality of losing your home looks like is not lost on me.
I did take photos in Everglades City, but I have chosen not to share them. There are many images of loss out there and I did not want to add to the noise. And those are people’s lives in those piles. It felt wrong.