by John V. Gallant
The National Media was able to fill a smidgeon over a week’s worth of segments with photos of people’s possessions strewn across US1. Their coverage of MM 87.4 was extraordinary, as reporters posted up in front of San Pedro’s Trailer Village; morning, noon, and night. That is, up until the next tragedy that could be used to get eyeballs on screens.
While that type of attention may be good to fill the coffers of The American Red Cross, it does little to assist the people living here, whose refrigerators and delicates were displayed on televisions across the nation. The very people who are now searching, often in vain, for a new place to call home.
We have had a number of disasters and tragedies since that rancorous ***** Irma shook-up our little fishbowl like a snow globe, chewing up all the sofa cushions, pooping on the rug, and leaving us to clean up the mess. And while large strides have been made, there is still a long way to go.
It is imperative to remember that we live on a chain of islands on the southern tip of Florida, and hurricanes happen. If you find that statement a little odd, I’m right there with you, but most likely for different reasons.
There is plenty of blame that can be directed to the atmospheric conditions that led to all this destruction, but it’s not going to do any good. Blaming a person, persons, or governmental agency isn’t going to do anyone any good either. It’s not their fault.
While recovery has had some challenges, there are far more instances of successes than failures. If you are hankering for an argument about this, you have every right to be frustrated, but I’d ask that you visit Puerto Rico for a few days before firing off that angry email to your city manager or building department.
No matter how you slice up the pie, this is going to be an expensive adventure. Just the debris removal alone will cost a small fortune. And I’m guessing our local officials could make it go faster by throwing more money at the problem, but the extra benefit would most likely not be worth the piles of OUR money that would be wasted.
Free is a subjective term. It was most certainly not free for us to line the sides of the street with refuse. It was convenient, it was a necessity, it may even have been less expensive than some of the other options available. But we will pay for it. 1,012,000 cubic yards of debris doesn’t pick itself up and disappear. To give you an example of what they hauled off, if you spread all of the debris collected, transported and dumped across one football field, it would be a giant Irma trash monument standing 158 feet tall.
The Florida Department of Transportation, who was assisting with the cleanup has said they did their three passes, and that’s the end of their responsibility. Although that point is most certainly arguable, it makes no sense to do so, they have washed their hands of us, at least in this regard.
What does make sense, is to start cleaning this mess up. It’s our turn. Getting neighborhoods together to clean out canals, clean up the medians, and move forward. We cannot allow ourselves to fall into a victim mentality and wait for someone else to clean up, especially when it’s going to come out of our pockets.
They say, “many hands make light work” and I urge everyone to do a little.
When the storm was fresh in everyone’s minds we had more help than we could manage. I drove to Big Pine five days in a row, trying to find places to deliver supplies for people who were trying to donate food, water, ice, equipment, generators, etc. The outpouring of support was amazing, and actually lasted longer than I had anticipated. But it’s waning, and it’s exhausting to see just how much work is left to do.
We need a second wind. The best way forward that I can see, is to face it together. To all be pulling in the same direction. To look out for our friends and neighbors.
We have the unique opportunity to make our community what we would like it to be. You, me, that guy who dresses in white plastic and walks the highway. We are in it together, and this is our home.
Contrary to pop culture, and what is exemplified on television, we don’t need a “hero” to do it all, we need thousands to do a little. We are the sum of all of our parts, and together we can move the earth.
Just a phone call or a kind word can start a movement. Find a need and work towards a solution. Funny enough, something simple to you could make a world of difference to someone else. Find that small thing, use your talent in a manner in which you can bring light to the darkness. It’s not only about the person you help, it’s about you too. We build each other up, we all succeed.
Oh, by the way, if you need to borrow a dump trailer for a clean-up project, I have one you can use for free, call me. If you are looking to donate, a great organization to do so it The Upper Keys Rotary.