The Cleanup in Fort Meyers, Florida, After Hurricane Ian

6 mins read
A flooded street after catastrophic Hurricane Irma hit Fort Lauderdale, FL.

The cleanup in Ft. Myers is a horrendous undertaking. I have never seen destruction of this scale in my lifetime. Almost everywhere I look I see building after building of blue-tarped roofs. Every roof in our complex of 100 units has damage, and we are better off than most. The trees, limbs and branches alone create high piles of debris that will take months to get rid of. 

At least I had a home to come back to. Many don’t. We opened our home to friends from Sanibel and our next door neighbor also welcomed people from damaged areas who may have lost everything as well. You see stories on the news of good people helping others which is heartening but it also saddens me because the need is so great. I have gone through my closet looking for clothing that I can donate. I can tell you that sometimes I am fighting back tears when I see all the destruction — and I have only seen a fraction of it. Southwest Florida around Ft. Myers is changed forever. A month ago I took a boat ride up to Bert’s Bar and Grill in Matlacha and now Bert’s is gone. My favorite place to go at Ft. Myers Beach was Bonita Bills Waterfront Cafe. Well, that is gone too. So much of what made this area great is gone now. 

And unfortunately, it looks like our Republican representation in Congress is not really interested in our recovery. I read that Matt Gaetz said “no” to FEMA funds. Apparently Marco Rubio didn’t even show up to vote. You can see the political nature of everything at the expense of people suffering, and it is the poor people suffering the most. I can’t help but think that Ron DeSantis is trying to stifle FEMA in an effort to make the Biden administration look bad, which will only make people suffer more. 

The work that needs to be done is going to take us years. It took five years to reopen South Seas Resort after Hurricane Charlie, and there will be new recovery projects here that may take that long if not longer. Many businesses we just may never see again. One big question is going to be, who will be doing the work? It won’t be that elderly MAGA supporter. You can bet your ass that it won’t be Rubio, Gaetz, or Trump leading the way. 

Let’s face it, the people that we will be very dependent on are those immigrants that our governor has demonized. Maybe he should send that plane back to Martha’s Vineyard to retrieve those asylum-seekers because they came here to work. Everyone who’s a fan of the Martha’s Vineyard stunt, just come to Florida and look for yourself. Look to see the people who will be there to help Florida rebuild. The people who came here for a better life are in many cases going to be the people who help Florida recover. These are the people who all those Republicans want deported. These are the people who get yelled at daily to go back to where they came from. Sadly, these people will help Florida recover and when it is over they will be demonized again by the very people they helped. 

To me, the debate should be about how we need immigrants. We should start a real dialogue on how to remedy the situation to help these people as they have helped us. Forgiveness, a path to citizenship and many other solutions need to be explored. This country needs workers and these people want to work just like other immigrants have over the last couple of centuries. As I watch what is around me, I see postings by Republicans saying that “illegal immigrants are responsible for all the drugs pouring over our border.” Research in fact shows that drugs are being smuggled in by trucks and ships through legal ports of entry (either disguised or in hidden compartments in trucks delivering produce), not by asylum-seekers. Building a wall does not stop drugs from coming in. In fact, building a wall doesn’t do anything but waste our money. Stopping asylum-seekers does not prevent drugs from coming into the country. These are just excuses for racism and bigotry, racism and bigotry that would hinder our recovery here in Florida.

We need real solutions to real problems, not intolerance. We need to be thankful for the people who want to embrace this country and help work to build a better America no matter what color they are.

Originally published on the author’s blog.

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