After Ian, a City Rebuilds

By Tony Moorby April 07, 2023

We just visited a couple of our closest friends in Florida; Buzz and I worked together like brothers after we acquired his family’s business in the early eighties – he later went on to buy his own auction, with amazing success. Jenn, his wife, and my wife, Terry, have got on like a house on fire since the day they met, laughing and joking like a couple of mad fools, needing little else to entertain one another than just being together.

Their hospitality is legend and we took the opportunity to slip away from winter’s dying grip in Tennessee and enjoy the weather and the warmth of their company. It’s not asking too much in southern Florida.  “Have you ever imagined what the aftermath of Hurricane Ian looks like?” Buzz posed. So when we said we couldn’t, we took a ride to see what Mother Nature had wrought on a piece of paradise. I’m not altogether ignorant of the power of nature – we see enough tornados in Tennessee to be well acquainted; I sold a dealer services business in which I was a partner, adjacent to the Nashville Auto Auction, later flattened by a tornado in 2020. The showroom and recon center were torn in half and 14 dealer office suites completely disappeared. 

I don’t know what I was expecting in and around Ft. Myers but the power of wind and water is jaw dropping. Anyone thinking they can easily ride out a monster of a Category 4 Hurricane in place is sadly mistaken, perhaps even demented. 

We drove along the beach road – the beach, multimillion-dollar houses, hotels and sea to our left and what were businesses and houses ranging from mansions to shanties, across the road to our right. The approach showed some disparate damage to the Mangroves, torn out and turning grey, root balls like fists shaking at the sky. Then a fishing boat was on top, crazily tilted as though still riding out the storm. The debris and detritus of lives, once carefree, now strewn every which way in a mad miasma in trees, fences, telephone poles or foundation stumps with no acknowledgement as to their previous ownership or value.

What looked like a stick-built house on stilts still stood sentinel next to a massive manse laid waste in nothing but an unceremonious pile of grey rubble, rooms unidentifiable as to their previous contribution to family life. It’s truly difficult to describe how we drove mile after mile as gasps became louder and more pronounced; each of us pointing and voicing shock at every new vista of wretched wreckage. A once pretty ice cream parlour painted an innocent pink and cream, now a grey and jagged threatening façade, as surly as a grand hotel with verandas missing or hanging akimbo and gaping holes for windows. The once welcoming sweep of the driveway to the warm and glorious reception like open arms, now a vicious reflection of unconscionable violence, firmly declaring, “Stay away.”

Among all this craziness, owners or workers were digging through rubble with everything from a bucket to a back loader; one roof tile at a time or the side of a cottage in one fell swoop. These people are amazing, doggedly claiming back what they want to return to. Only more grit existed in their surroundings than they showed themselves. 

These people exhibit the American sense of optimism and possibility, seeing what look like insurmountable barriers, as merely things to organize and get over – time being the best accomplice. 

I’m convinced that in ten years’ time, Ft. Myers will be back, solidly as part of the Florida ethos of hard work, bearing fruit to enable its residents and visitors to enjoy life to the full.

We were pleased to have witnessed things for ourselves; a morbid idea turned into a confirming experience.

Last modified on Sunday, 18 June 2023 22:54