I’ve been back and forth across the panhandle on I-10 this weekend. The destruction, just from the interstate, is unbelievable. Forests along the road are barren of leaves, or flattened as though a malevolent giant swung an enormous dull axe across the landscape. The crowns of giant pine trees hang on precarious strips of bark alongside the trunks from which they were wrenched. Leaves and sawdust and other debris litter the shoulder. Signs have blown away. Billboards hang in tatters. What a mess.
On the bright side, convoys of utility workers, law enforcement, and National Guard soldiers were still making their way west this afternoon to aid people in desperate need. I choked up riding behind a convoy of JEA linemen Friday night, overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers from my hometown heading into the wreckage to bring a measure of peace and comfort to those in need. Coming home this afternoon, I saw JEA trucks on my street, too, and the power is on. What else can I say, but thank you? Thank you! I am ready to help anyone who needs it if I can.
Hurricane Michael blew through today. Michael made this probably the most memorable birthday I’ll ever have, but, more importantly, it bulldozed a heartbreaking path of destruction across a huge portion of the Florida panhandle I have come to know and love. I have a few photos of the aftermath in my neighborhood which I will post soon, when the power is restored, but I just wanted to mark the occasion tonight.
Here is a video of the pines in my backyard swaying in the Tropical Storm-force winds blowing in the storm’s wake. These trees stood long before I was born. They stood tall through Hurricanes Michael, Hermine, and Kate, just to name the direct hits; bent but never broken. They lost a sister tree in Hermine, but continue to smile down on our home, which is really their home. I love these trees fiercely. Their strength and resiliency can be an inspiration, I hope, for all of us in the difficult days ahead. When the complaints about trees and power outages start–and they will, very soon–these mighty pines will remind me why we value trees in Tallahassee, and why we choose to live with them.