Exclusive bragging rights? I’m afraid not. We told people, “We now have a tree in our living room.” Our very own skylight. My wife said, “A scratching post for my indoor cats.” Then I met others who had trees in their living rooms, kitchens, bedrooms, dining rooms, bathrooms… you name it.
I have heard that our county (Calhoun County, Florida) had over 70% of residential homes damaged to the point of being uninhabitable. I don’t know how accurate that information is, but I do know first hand that the damage is incredible.
Our story is not unique. Michael hit on October 10. On that morning, I drove my wife Linda to her father’s house so she could be with him during the storm. I stayed with my mother and father. None of us expected the storm to be so devastating so far inland. Had we known what was coming, we probably would have done things differently.
Someone might ask why we didn’t heed the media warnings to evacuate. After all, they were predicting the storm of the century, AGAIN. That is the problem. They are ALWAYS predicting the storm of the century, then it turns out to be very little. Why don’t people evacuate? Because the media cries wolf every time. Got to sell that advertising, you know. So, people who don’t need to evacuate spend lots of money they don’t really have on gas, hotels, and eating out.
We have ridden out hurricane after hurricane. We know what to expect, and what to do. But, Michael was different. We have never been through anything like this. The sustained winds were incredible. And then came the GUSTS. Trees would twist, snap, and come down. Not just one or two. I think we had 90% of our trees come down.
When the storm finally passed, it looked like an atomic bomb had exploded. No electricity, running water, phone, or Internet. We could not exit the house we were in because of all the brush. It took me 30 minutes, maneuvering through downed trees, limbs, and brush, to reach the road and my mobile home (a journey that typically only takes 2 minutes to walk). I did not know where I was. The road was covered with debris.
We spent the next few days cutting paths to the road, and to my mobile home and our storage room. We needed to be able to get our cars out and up to high ground because they were forecasting the river to rise to record levels. Neighbors were busy helping neighbors. No one was sitting around waiting for the government to come to the rescue.
Michael certainly left his mark. Everything has changed. It may take years to completely dig out. Michael took a lot, but Michael didn’t take everything. Michael left us with homes and land to repair and rebuild. Before it’s all over and done, we who survive this will be better and stronger. God has blessed us with our lives, and with resources to rebuild.
I look around and see devastation. I see so much lost, and so much work before us. But then I see video and pictures of Mexico Beach and surrounding coastal communities. I think of all those who have come our way to bring supplies and to help. I think of those generous hearts who are helping us to rebuild. God has truly blessed us.