Two years and three months ago, I called Tampa, Florida home. My family bought a house in the heart of the city. Designing parts of it ourselves, we put our heart and soul into building a house that we thought we’d spend decades in. Hesitantly moving out of the country a month after we finally finished and bought it, we kept the house hoping to someday return to it.
Two weeks ago, Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc through all of Florida, including Tampa. On edge for up to two weeks before, the entire state had no idea what to expect before its landfall.
Five days ago, my family and I took a 50 hour trip to Florida to return to the city that was once so perfect for us. We left with no idea of what to expect of our house, our neighborhood, or Tampa at all. We were none the wiser and could have been met with utter destruction or a perfectly normal setting.
But this story isn’t about me or my family. Sure, I still have best friends and a house in Florida, but my new life has been established right here in Michigan. My ties with Florida may still be there, but they’ve been slowly fading every day since I’ve left. This story isn’t even about the hurricane that caused all the damage in the first place.
This story is about the millions who truly call Florida home. The millions who evacuated, fled their homes leaving everything behind them, and felt the devastation by the horrific events up close and personal. The millions who overcame such a traumatic event.
I most definitely witnessed the brutal power of nature during my short trip. We saw houses that were completely destroyed and still flooded. There were entire neighborhoods that had no power for days and days on end. Some of America’s most beautiful beaches were completely wrecked with dead animals and trash washed up all along the shores. Trees and power lines were down at every street corner. A city that was once so full of life seemed to have lost its spark and vibe if you looked to the building or trees.
But we also witnessed the power of community. Friends providing shelter and protecting each other’s homes. Neighbors helping to clear dozens of fallen trees and lending a helping hand to each other. Strangers sharing advice and supplies with all those around them. At every upsetting sight of damage, there was an uplifting sight of humanity just around the corner.
Hurricane Irma may have physically torn apart or even completely destroyed parts of Florida, but there’s no chance that it, or any force of nature for that matter, could destroy the Florida spirit. The morale, passion, and soul you’ll find in any Floridian is what kept and will continue to keep Florida strong. The sunshine state may be recovering for a few months, but you can be sure that you’ll see its rays shine through again soon enough.