United in purpose
By A. Ray Lee
More than ten years ago, in recognition of our upcoming golden wedding anniversary, Effie and I were gifted by a friend with a few days of retreat on Sanibel Island where in the mornings we walked the beach with a few other early risers searching for unusual sea shells exposed on the sand during the night by waves off the gulf waters.
Later in the day, we drove around the island looking at the different styles of homes of those who were permanent residents and wondered what it would be like to live there. At noon we ate fresh seafood at one of the restaurants before returning to our tourist cottage for a nap during the heat of the day. In the late evenings as the heat abated we returned to the beach to walk in the surf enjoying the cooling breeze blowing across the clear waters.
When our visit was over we drove back over the causeway to Fort Myers grateful for the friend who had made our peaceful retreat possible. Memories of our visit have lingered over the years since then. Effie is no longer with me but the memories of those days were recently intensified as I viewed pictures and listened to reports of the devastation wrought upon the island, Fort Myers, and inland by the monstrous storm named Ian. When the surging waters had returned to the gulf and the winds had blown on to do damage elsewhere the heartbreaking project of search and rescue began.
It seemed a miracle was needed if any survivors were to be found in the debris fields where homes had once stood. Even getting to the island posed a major problem as the causeway was destroyed. But airlifts were possible and in three days under the active leadership of the Governor, a temporary bridge spanned the waters separating the island from the mainland which had itself suffered cataclysmic destruction.
It was obvious that herculean efforts coming from many sources would be required to reverse the destruction and rebuild the community of spirit shared by those who had lost everything. As the waters rolled back and the winds abated help was on the way. A multitude of non-profit groups and government agencies united in purpose regardless of their political or other differences were on their way with help.
The Cajun Navy was there before FEMA had fully assessed the needs. The Red Cross and Samaritan’s Purse came to minister to the physical and emotional needs of those who searched through the rubble and to provide immediate assistance to those who had lost all. Religious disaster relief teams came from all over the southern states to aid in the work. Convoys of bucket trucks bringing linemen to restore the power grid reached for miles.
Others who could not go in person lifted fervent prayers for those who had lost all as they gave donations to aid the effort. The work of restoration will take a long time, but step by step it will be completed. It is amazing what can be done when people put aside their differences and come together in unity of purpose.