Ft. Lauderdale, Fl USA
Beautiful downtown Ft. Lauderdale is not so beautiful anymore. Windows reflecting rays of the ever-present Florida sun are shattered, leaving gaping holes in the tall buildings lining the skylight of the city that stretches down the atlantic as far as the eye can see. Boats are piled up like matchsticks along the bays. Driving through the residential communities, I was reminded of the Skakespearian line, "Who would have thought the old man had so much blood in him?", although in this case, it would be "Who would have thought there were so many trees in Florida?" Huge piles of broken limbs and shattered trunks line the streets, not unlike fortress gates, these being made of palm, black olive,eucalyptus, strangles fig and malaleucas. The majority of screened-in patios have been obliterated. The infra-structure is almost non-existant. After Wilma hit, 98% of the power in Dade County, home of Miami, and Broward county, home of Ft. Lauderdale, and Palm Beach county was gone. Now, five days after landfall, almost half the power has been restored with a target date of November 24th to get everyone back in full service. A large portion of the phone system is also gone. Cell phones have becone the communication life-blood, albeit spotty since the wireless networks were not designed to handle such a load. Traffic signals are out and people are instructed to use the "four-way stop' mentality when crossing busy intersections. Fortunately there is much lesstraffic because there are almost no gas stations open to pump gas. Each day a few more open and lines of hundreds of vehicles appear out of nowhere, mny running out of gas while in the 4-6 hour waiting line (and praying that the gas at the pumps doesn't run out before they get there.)
Each morning begins with - the hunt. Just as our ancestors hunted each day for food to survive, we hunt a prey much more elusive than the swiftest elk or strongest buffalo. We hunt for ice. FEMA has stations set up in every town for ice, water and hot meals. Get there early, take a book, and within 2-4 hours, you may be able to walk away with 2 bags of ice and a case of water, very necessary since the majority of Broward county is under a boiled-water alert. Then it is rushing home as fast as possible before it melts, utilizing the 4-way stop mentality, of course. The day after the hurricane was rough. Thousands of people lined up for water and ice, out-of-state FEMA drivers got lost, there were fuel problems, and the delays were long. Reporters were everywhere, of course, and every scream at FEMA or the government brought them rushing like flies to a garbage dump. One lady in line said, "We didn't know it would be this bad." DUH! It was aimed right at us. The cool front moving down from the north and the southern front moving up created an alleyway Wilma could not escape from. It HAD to hit us. There was nowhere else for it to go. Ok, some people felt that something might happen to let us escape once again, as we had done several times in the past two years. Even so, couldn't these people have taken two or three minutes to fill up an empty gallon jug or two with water JUST IN CASE??? Then there wouldn't have been lines of thousands the day after. I wouldn't expect them to go out and buy a few bags of ice JUST IN CASE because that would require physical activity on their part but couldn't they have put the ice they had in zip-lock bags and made more to have on hand? Ok, so they didn't and that was their choice. People are entitled to make their own decisions. Life also states that people have to live by the decisions they make and the ridiculous part was that THESE people who made no effort to prepare were the ones screaming loudest in lines for the government to do something - NOW! The same was true of the gasoline. At any time on Sunday night, anyone could have gotten gas anywhere. on monday night, after wilma hit, people were screaming that they had no gas - GOVERNMENT, DO SOMETHING!!!! I've stood in these ice lines and have yet to hear one person complain about either FEMA or the government and I live in Broward county - a county that has never voted Republican in it entire history. People accept the fact that we got smacked with a major hurricane and it will take time to rebound and most people are sppreciative for whatever help we receive. Naturally, the one out of hundreds who screams is the one most likely to be highlighted on the evening news.
One of the more incredible statistics to come out of this tragedy is that there was no looting. Anyone familiar with the makeup of Miami and Ft. Lauderdale can understand how astonishing this is. Many shopping and residential areas were devastated, leaving themselves open to looters. On the night of the hurricane, a 7 o'clock curfew was immediately implemented. State national guard troops were sent in the augment the local police forces. For the first three days following the hurricane, there were six reported cases of looting, with one arrest, in all of Miami and ft. Lauderdale, an amazing statistic.
So that's it. I'll take this across town to a friend of mine who has a working telephone and get it to you. We wait for power, phones, gas and basic services to return. My faith in my fellow man has been restored greatly in the past week. People are friendly, helpful and considerate to others, as lest for now. We went through a tough time together and we'll get through it together. My respect for Serenity's ability to handle what she went through has increased greatly, too.
So flip on a light switch, enjoy a cold beverage and appreciate the fact that you can. I'll be back soon........
...and thank you for the well-wishes. Sock supply is ok