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This post was supposed to be about the petty annoyances of living steps away from the ocean: the salt rime that slowly eats away at a car, the rust forming on garden tools, wood splintering from constant exposure to heat and humidity. Mildew. But along came Irma, and I would be remiss if I pretended that life in the Keys is the same today as it was a few weeks ago.

In the early morning hours of September 10, 2017, Hurricane Irma slammed into the Florida Keys as a monster Category Four storm. Her wrath was felt across the island chain, the eye passing over Cudjoe Key and the wind bands battering every bit of the archipelago.

Living in paradise comes at a cost, and sometimes the price is dear.

When morning dawned and Irma had moved onto the peninsula, those who rode out the storm had their first glimpse of the devastation. Houses were sheered open, cars overturned, buildings flooded, landscape uprooted. Boats clogged canals, their moorings snapped and their docks crushed. Still other boats had been plucked from the ocean, cast upon the shore and across roads. Debris brought life to a standstill.

September is a hot month in the Keys. Humidity soars and mosquitos thrive. Life without power is harsh. Food spoils, sleep becomes elusive.

But in the midst of this misery, stories were born—tales of heroism and neighborliness and luck. One Key Largo man found a wedding band glinting in the middle of his street. The ring belonged to his neighbor who had lost it in the mangroves eight years earlier.

Like palm trees, the people who choose to live in the Keys are resilient. They’re also tough, caring, generous, and loyal. It will take more than a storm—even one as massive as Irma—to break them. They have already begun to rebuild. They will survive.

They will flourish.

 

Chapter five~
Nothing remained untouched in the Keys.