“I am available to do laundry. I can pick up in Marathon. No charge of course.”
“Good morning everyone. Please, please, please stop on by if you need to cool off, rinse off, clean up, do wash, eat a hot meal or internet to work from or whatever (it's back). I'll be here all day letting my foot heal. If you're even thinking about it just come.”
“Can anyone help us find our boat. It was moored up on No. 1 in Boot Key Harbor.”
These are the words of those in the Keys — most of us — who saw our lives turned upside down and inside out two weekends ago when the Category 4 Hurricane Irma swept over these islands, crushing the Lower Keys from the Seven Mile Bridge to just short of Key West and slapping around Marathon like a cat would a toy. In Key West proper and the Upper Keys, there was damage, too, but not nearly to severity experienced in the Middle and Lower Keys.
Those words above — help with the laundry, come by and clean up — are not words of defeatism, but of encouragement, of hope. They are a narrow slice of the good will people in the Keys are showing on social media — and in person especially — as we’ve gone through the initial stage of disbelief and moved on to the hard work of putting our lives back together, however long it takes. And we are not going through that alone.
The government response immediately after the storm subsided — from our local responders to municipal and state responders from throughout the U.S. to the feds — must be applauded. We were not left to our ourselves to meet the immediate demands of the humanitarian crisis — and make no mistake, that’s what it was and to some point still is.
Our immediate needs — food and water — were met, though there was some initial confusion over distribution. But that external help will not be here forever. We are now in a mode where we are trying to regroup while trying to earn livings, which is a whole other issue. The financial calamity people are already suffering is real and will only get worse.
But you know what? We are going to make it. We are leaning on each other now more than ever because we all recognize our neighbors need us and we them. We’ve heard no one say “no” when asked for a favor moving some debris or checking on a house. We’ve heard the opposite: People being proactive, asking where they can help even while they are knee deep in their own problems.
We are going to make it. We’re the Keys. We’ve done this before (though not on this level). We know our collective community character, and it is strong. We are going to make it, with all of us helping each other.