It has now been three weeks since Hurricane Michael forever changed the landscape of Southwest Georgia and the panhandle of Florida. It is an evolving story of destruction, despair, hope, progress and faith.
Even twenty one days later, I am still shocked each morning when I walk outside and see my almost treeless yard, and the changed landscape of my neighborhood. It still hurts to think the magnificent trees in my yard are gone forever.
The despair came quickly to our community and those all around us. It was hard to take in just how widespread the damage was. Homes, businesses, farms, in many cases a lifetime of work, were damaged or destroyed in just a matter of hours.
They say that time heals all wounds, and I believe that for the most part. However, I will never see my neighborhood look the same in my lifetime. It may be different. It may be better. But it won’t be the same.
But in those dark hours and days that followed the storm, we began to see those glimmers of hope that caused us to push forward another day. Roads began to get cleared. Power slowly came back online after days of listening to the steady drone of generators in the night. A week or two later most started to get their first hot shower, something I will never take for granted again.
At first it was one step forward and two steps back. Then it was more forward steps than not. Progress seemed frustratingly slow, but it gained steam until no one could deny that this community was moving forward.
Stoplights began working. Streetlights came back on in the darkness. The internet, telephones, and cable slowly started to make their way back into our homes and businesses, though much work remains to be done.
It would be a hard story if it wasn’t for the ever-present reminders of faith. Faith in the God that spared so many even in this storm of historical proportions. Faith in our fellow man who have responded to our call for help. Warehouses are full of donated goods. Teams of strangers arrive in our city and county every day wanting to help. It is mind-boggling and humbling.
Finally, I believe that we are sensing a new faith in ourselves and each other. This community took it on the chin and stood back up. There is something empowering about recovery. The road is long and the memories are still raw, but we are on our way back. I can see it the renewed smiles on the faces of our neighbors and friends.
There will be a week very soon when I will not write about Hurricane Michael. We are not quite there yet, but that time is thankfully approaching. In the meantime, have patience. Rome wasn’t built in a day and Donalsonville and Seminole County won’t be cleaned up in a month.
Our story is now focused on renewed hope, continued progress and the faith that will hopefully continue to sustain us all in the days ahead.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org