Like many folks, I have spent many hours this weekend watching the news cast as Hurricane Irma drew closer to the Florida Keys. And on Sunday, I watched in horror as the media brought live coverage from various points in Florida during the storm. Landfall, storm surges, and extreme wind brought fears of catastrophic damage, made more ominous by the storm’s western turn towards the gulf. Original forecasts predicted the brunt of the storm on the east coast and while Miami prepared, places like Tampa and communities along the gulf coast had much less time to enact measures to withstand a Category 4 hurricane.
One of the places directly in the storm’s path was Marco Island, one of our favorite vacation spots. On our first trip, I remember a visit to the Welcome Center. A retiree from the North talked a lot about her life in this tropical paradise.
“What about hurricanes?” I asked.
“Not worried,” she said, “We’ve been lucky. They never seem to hit here.”
She is not alone in her optimism. Many people decided to stay put in defiance to evacuation requirements and repeated warnings. At one point in a televised broadcast, a convenience store owner along the southern shore stated, “At some point, you just have to think that it really will not happen.”
Are folks simply in denial or is something else at play here?
On Saturday, I spent the day with my daughter. As we discussed the approaching storm, she told me about one person who had moved to one of the Florida Islands.
“I like living too much,” I said.
“That’s exactly what she said,” my daughter replied.
Later in one of the televised broadcasts, a reporter spoke with a woman who had decided to remain on Key West. “I have lived here all of my life,” she said. “This is home.” She reminded me of the young business man who had just opened a bistro close to the shore on Marco Island. The excitement in his voice was obvious as he described his hopes for this new venture. There was no separating his dream from his life. They were, in fact, one and the same.
Like a captain who would rather sink with his ship, perhaps for some, the idea of paradise lost is inconceivable. The thought of leaving is no more possible than leaving your own skin and surviving.
Tonight, my thoughts are with the realtor who found a retirement home on Marco Island and the millions like her living in Florida. Tonight, my heart is with the young man and his bistro; and the woman who has lived her entire life on Key West.
We could all use a little more paradise.