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We were not alone then, and we are not alone now!

The following words were the first ones I wrote for publication after Hurricane Michael changed our world forever back on October 10, 2018. As I read them again this week – now two years after that horrific day – I felt their message was one we all needed to hear again. We are still hurting and recovering, but we must always remember as we work together to build our new normal world, we are not alone. 

Days after our world was devastated by the winds of Hurricane Michael words absolutely escape me as I sit down and try to write this column. On Wednesday, October 10, 2018, as Michael and its eye wall of terror was carving a path right over all of us here in Seminole County I sat, first in my upstairs apartment living room, and then later, huddled with my dogs in the back bathroom; I was beyond  terrified. The horrific sounds coming from the other side of my walls from all over downtown sounded as if the city was screaming. For six straight hours,  sounds of roofs ripping, tin tearing and scraping, glass exploding – it was absolutely unbearable. But, like all of us, we had no place to go – at that moment. I sat in the front room and watched the storm increase in its intensity; however, when the old fire department’s roof flew off and crashed into my office and when the police department’s roof flew over my house and impaled my truck, I stopped watching. For a brief moment I thought about going outside and taking photos of the destruction in progress, but as I opened the back door, a piece of lumber flew like an arrow over my roof and harpooned itself into the back window of the Probation Office’s SUV. Unlike the Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore, I quickly stepped back and slammed the door shut with me inside. The door did not open again until the next morning. 

At first light I walked outside, looked around and I am not ashamed to admit I sat down on a pile of debris in the middle of Cherry Street and cried like a baby. For the next few days every image of destruction caused even more tears to flow.

Two years ago, when I was trying to write this column, I found a post on Facebook by Dallas Burke; I could not have expressed anything any better that what he said. Here it is . . .

“I’ve seen a lot of posts from people upset and saying ‘Donalsonville has been destroyed.’  That’s bull crap! A bunch of ‘stuff’ has been destroyed … ‘stuff’ that, yes, is important and has value BUT can be replaced.  Donalsonville is NOT about the buildings or the trees, it’s about the PEOPLE.  The PEOPLE survived, endured, and, if anything, have found a renewal of humanity under all of the debris. Donalsonville . . . the PEOPLE  … will not and cannot be destroyed as long as they choose NOT to be!  Yes, Michael was/is a difficult chapter in our history, but it’s not the LAST chapter. Yes, there are hard times ahead, but if you pay attention around you there are miracles, big and small, happening all around as the community heals.  The only thing we have to do to not be ‘destroyed’  is, as it says in John 13:34-35 is to ‘love one another’.  Do that, and Donalsonville will never be destroyed.  God bless you all.”  – Dallas Burke

Seminole County will indeed survive. We already have. We are going to hurt for a long time, but if we make the decision to hurt together and help to build a better tomorrow together, that at least to me, will make looking at all of this destruction possible without breaking into tears.

Today, as I reflect back on those words, and on all that has happened in our community over the past two years, I am thankful  and blessed to live in a place where compassion and kindness live in the hearts of its people.

I am certain that no matter what tomorrow brings – from devastating hurricanes, to out of control viruses – we are going to survive and thrive Seminole County!

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