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Hope + Survival :: The Aftermath of Hurricane Michael

By Jimmy Burgess, Chief Growth Officer, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Beach Properties of Florida

The world needs more of what I’ve seen in the Panhandle since Hurricane Michael. I’ve seen people come together with a common cause of helping others like I’ve never seen before. I’ve witnessed people with different political beliefs, different religious beliefs, from different races and from different socioeconomic backgrounds work together for the common good of all people in the affected areas.

I’ve seen strength when weakness would be expected. I’ve seen hope when hopelessness would have been understood. I’ve seen people share sweat, blood, tears and stories of survival like I’ve never seen or heard before.

I spoke with a man that said he and his wife rode the storm out in the closet of their home in Lynn Haven. Halfway through the storm their entire roof came off, and they rode the storm out with no roof as the storm raged above them for two more hours. In the face of all that he told me he said he wasn’t sure why he was alive, but he knows God has something left for him to do. The peace and appreciation he had for life was awe-inspiring.

I spoke with a woman in Millville that said her house was shaking so much in the storm that she knew it wouldn’t make it. She said she felt like God told her to leave as the storm was raging. Knowing that was against all common sense she drove a mile to the juvenile justice department where her daughter worked. She said she dodged trees, power lines and debris as she drove, and, at times, she thought the wind gusts might turn her car over but she made it to the department. She said when the storm ended she drove back, and her home had been destroyed. She said she would not have survived had she stayed. She told me, as tears streamed down her face, “that little bit I had is gone,” but she said, “I have my life and an opportunity to help others.” I met her at her friend’s house where she was staying and helping them clean up. Her hope for the future and her focus on helping others while she was in need was a humbling experience.

Another woman in Millville showed me the window in the back of her house that blew out during the storm. She said for the remainder of the storm, her husband leaned on the door to keep it from opening while she prayed in the bathroom. She said the wind tossed the furniture and objects around the bedroom like that room was a dryer tumbling laundry. She showed me the huge oak trees she said leaned over her house during the storm that fell within feet of her roof. Miraculously it did not fall into her house but in a direction that seemed to defy the wind direction of the storm. She said, “you know that ain’t no accident!” She showed me a glass table in her living room that had a Bible sitting on it. She smiled and said with everything going on in the back of the house and the trees coming down around the house during the storm that glass table and that Bible never moved. She told me she knew she was blessed and highly favored. She said she knows good will come out of all this pain in the long run. All I could do was hug her and be inspired by her faith and positivity.

Another woman showed me a place in her brick wall where something hit the bricks with such force that it knocked a hole about three feet wide in her brick house leaving the bricks in a closet inside the house. She said the door frame on her house was shaking and appeared ready to give way. She and her sister leaned on the door for four hours through the storm to make sure it did not open because they knew if it did they would die. She said she was so exhausted physically and mentally that as soon as the storm began to calm down she passed out on her couch from exhaustion. She told me she has lived here her entire life and the silver lining of the storm is seeing everybody come together. She still had no power, a car that had been ruined by tree debris, and a tarped roof covering a shingle-less portion of the roof, yet she was talking about the silver lining and focusing on how the storm was bringing people together.

I don’t want to discount the state our country is in at this point in history, but the media and both political parties can focus on the negativity and blame each other for our nation’s current environment. I choose to focus on the goodness of mankind. I choose to do what I can do to help those in need around me and I believe the answer is in each one of us focusing on the things we have in common instead of the things that separate us.

Not only will the areas affected come back, but I believe with all my heart they will come back stronger than ever. Not only will they survive in the present, I believe they will thrive in the future. It is hard to defeat a group of people that will not surrender, and the people of the panhandle will never quit helping our neighbors as they recover from Hurricane Michael.

To support the relief + recovery efforts for affected areas initiated by Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Beach Properties of Florida, please CLICK HERE.

*Photos courtesy of Lynn Crow, ReNew of Northwest Florida

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