The pride I feel in being part of this amazing community, the gratitude I am filled with for the overwhelming support we have received across our tiny chain of islands and the newfound respect for the words “Conch Strong” and “Florida Keys Strong” are truly humbling. I will carry these overwhelming feelings and experiences with me long after my time as mayor of Key West has ended.
I am so proud of everyone in the Florida Keys. I am proud of the amazing city staff who stayed to immediately start cleanup and coordinating resources after the storm for our residents. They slept on the floor in City Hall so we would be able to get our city up and running as soon as the winds would allow.
I am proud of the Emergency Operations Center and the leaders of our entire county who worked tirelessly to ensure safety and recovery even during the most difficult times and having to make the most difficult decisions. I am proud of our community partners, the nonprofits and churches, that banded together and rose to every challenge in accepting and distributing the water and supplies needed to keep the people of the Florida Keys healthy, safe and alive.
Key West's long history with the Navy was apparent as the military was here in force to help. The USS Iwo Jima anchored offshore. Adm. Samuel Paparo came to the EOC and said they were here to protect the Department of Defense’s assets and help Key West with anything we need. I am proud of our state and federal governments for responding with an abundance of support without hesitation to help with relief and recovery. Within the first two weeks, Gov. Rick Scott visited Key West and Marathon four times and brought department agency heads who could directly help our relief and recovery.
I can’t say enough about our community service workers who were out clearing streets before the winds had even stopped. Our police department was out protecting our citizens and their properties. The fire department personnel were out clearing streets in case an emergency arose. Keys Energy Services was amazing in how fast it started bringing power back up after being hit with a Category 4 storm.
The Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority worked quickly to supply water after having sustained damage the entire length of the Keys. To the clergymen and leaders of our faith community, our hospital, doctors and nurses, our grocery store employees, and our countless volunteers, I say thank you. I am so grateful for the supplies donated and the efforts made by so many people in order to start the recovery of our beautiful Keys.
I have great respect and love for the people of our community. So many took the initiative to help. Neighbors helped neighbors. Families came together and strangers helped strangers. It was beautiful to see.
Key West fared better than our neighbors to the north so our recovery is happening much quicker. We were fortunate to have not sustained much structural damage but we did sustain great damage to marinas and boats. To our brothers and sisters to the north of us, we vow to continue to support you in every way possible as you continue this process of rebuilding and recovery.
The feelings and emotions, the acts of God and acts of grace along with the images we have seen will stay with us forever. Let us never forget that in the face of the most difficult of challenges, we put aside our differences and we gave each other hope and help. We came together in the face of adversity. This is truly what Key West and the Florida Keys are all about. This is why we all choose to call this place home. We are strong and resilient and we will make the Keys better than ever. God bless.
Mayor Craig Cates, Key West