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In Naples, Fla., the key question: 'You got power?'

Sweat equity thanks to Hurricane Irma is an equal opportunity occupier in Naples and Collier County, Florida.

But it could have been much worse if it weren’t for the excellent leadership of Gov. Rick Scott and that of local authorities.

My wife Joanne and I watched in awe as Irma spent a harrowing eight hours - with gusts of more than 100 mph - going through Southwest Florida. Its trek took more than a day to leave our area.

At its peak, slashing rain made us unable to see out our windows. Our roof acted as if it wanted to "lift off" from the house. Stucco walls felt a power and a shake that we haven’t seen in the 13 years that we’ve lived here. Even the toilet didn’t flush for some unless they had stored water in the bathtub ahead of time. It was hot as hell and there was nothing we could do about it, except observe nature’s power and pray.

The battery radio was our recourse to the outside world. We listened constantly.

The food in the refrigerator spoiled. We threw away everything. Dinners consisted of hard boiled eggs and peanut butter on bread with a bottle of water. Breakfast: Cheerios, dry. This routine went on for days.

Others are suffering far more than we did, including those who have died or were injured or hospitalized. Millions are without power in 90 degree plus weather in Florida.

So what’s the status of people in Naples in the aftermath of Irma?  This changes from minute to minute and will continue to do so.

Trash is everywhere, as are the remnants of trees, cut off at their figurative knees by 100 mph winds. (One Naples breeze was clocked at 143 mph.)

Generators have given out, killing some in Florida by improper use.  People stand in long lines waiting for the Publix grocery store to open. “You got power?” a lady named Mary whom I see on my bike rides asks.

That question is on every s mind. When the grocery store opened, there was not much there. No ice.  No water – the first 10 customers got what there was. Some of the shelves were as bare as those in Venezuela during its present political upheaval.

Jeff Simon, longtime an editor of the “Buffalo News” sent an email to me.  It came via an Internet route that I established with my daughter, Jeannie Burris, who lives in Connecticut.  Simon wanted to know, as earlier did my daughter, Joanne Cleary, in Amherst, and my son, Mike in Washington, D.C., and many friends, how we were doing.

This is the universal question in hard times, isn’t it?

I contacted him by way of my daughter in Connecticut, lacking direct internet access.

Dear Jeff, 

Thanks for checking.  I joined the Marine Corp 62 years ago, so I know how to survive.  At present, Joanne and I are waiting for power to come back on.  No damage to our 155 mph window-proof place.  There’s major flooding and power loss everywhere.

This reminds me: I finished, of how reliant we are upon nature and God.  In these circumstances praying is the first thing to do, not the last.  Mike

Mike

PS  More than by the way, living by battery powered lantern reminds one of candle light living in centuries past.

For most of man’s existence, there was no electricity.  If you wanted to go out for dinner in 1850, it was best to choose the Sunday nearest the full moon, a common date for gatherings at a time when social life hung on the phrased of the moon. On dark nights, it was a good idea to stay home.

But today and into the future, neighbors and even strangers are helping each other here in Naples, as they are doing in the Texas hurricane as well.

Last Wednesday afternoon I was exasperated by our lack of electricity. I said a little prayer, “Lord, we need a little help here. You know: air conditioning, power, water, as well as other modern conveniences that we’ve grown used to.”

“I know, Lord,” I continued, “others need these same things more than we do: the farm workers in Immokalee, and others those who have it tougher than us. Please give it to them first.”

Ten minutes after I asked the Lord to provide others with electricity, our power came on. Without my knowing it, the power connection on my watch was energized. I was shocked. The watch triggered a random song on my iPhone.

Almost as an answer to my prayer, Bing Crosby started singing the 1946 Johnny Mercer song, “Accentuate the Positive.”

“You've got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative…

Later, we held a community gathering at our house, what Joanne called a "restoration dinner." We had a pot luck supper at our house on Tuesday night and got to know some of our neighbors better. One is a concert pianist with an Iraqi wife; another is a government worker from New Mexico.  Our "third daughter" Gail, who lives next door, has been around the block checking on people - and us – and bringing water to people without.”

Things are still bad in Southwest Florida and throughout the state. I don’t see things getting back to what one called "normal" for a long time. Remember all those who have no one to help them.

Michael D. Langan has been a reviewer of books and occasional articles in the Buffalo News for 37 years.

 

 

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