By Cameron Slavin ‘23
One of the most affected areas from Hurricane Ian was Fort Myers, Florida. In 2020, my parents bought a one-story house in Fort Myers Beach, Florida. The purchase during the middle of the pandemic was a sign of hope and happiness. We hosted many trips with friends and family holidays.
I’m sure that my family weren’t the only ones affected by Hurricane Ian. The state of Florida has plenty of Brother Rice alumni enjoying retirement, or at least were until their house was destroyed. I also know that there are some Brother Rice students who were affected by the hurricane because they might not be able to visit their grandparents’ house anymore, or they had a summer home that was ruined.
My parents were able to visit our home one last time about a week before the hurricane hit, not knowing it would be as bad as it was. We were able to receive updates about our house through communication with our neighbors and Fort Myers Beach (FMB) social media pages such as Facebook.
Our neighbors across the street, George and Elda, did not leave town. They stayed at a condo with the view of their house from a couple stories above. My parents stayed in contact with them because they were one of our closest friends upon moving in, and they were risking a lot by not leaving town. They were able to tell my parents that they were okay and about the conditions of the neighborhood. Over the phone, George told my dad that everything had been submerged underwater. George couldn’t even see his car that had been parked in front of his house.
By the time the floods disappeared, someone from the neighborhood took a picture of every single house on our block and posted it on the FMB Facebook page. From viewing the photos, my parents knew what to expect from the outside. From looking at pictures, I remember having hope because the house was still standing, but I had no idea what had happened on the inside. Almost a week after the hurricane, my parents took a flight to Tampa and stayed at a friend’s house in Naples. They rented a car and began their long car ride of seeing destruction of the town they loved.
When my parents arrived at the house, our neighbors’ roofs and living room couches were on our front lawn. When my parents opened the front door, the whole house was ruined. The whole floor was wet and covered with sand. I don’t even know where to start in regards to listing everything that had been destroyed. The granite countertop had been lifted off the island, the refrigerator was laying open on the ground, and tables and chairs were in our backyard. One of our living room couches disappeared and the glass window back door had been shattered.
Everything was ruined and the whole house was underwater. Our house was made of wood, so this meant that we were going to have to tear up the walls and floors or else mold would grow all over the whole house. The day before the insurance agents and engineers came; my parents tried to salvage any belongings and clean up the house. The insurance agents did inspecting, and the engineers told my parents that they weren’t going to have to bulldoze the whole house down. The next day the workers came and tore up the whole house and removed everything from inside. The frame of the house was the only thing left.
Even though the whole house was ruined, I remember talking to my mom on the phone, and she told me, “Everything is going to be ok; we are going to be ok.” Their immediate reaction was to start the process of rebuilding because they fell in love with the town of FMB and couldn’t leave the friends they made. They are now open to any ideas I have of redesigning the whole house because when you walk in, it is empty. With everything that happened in the state of Florida, it’ll probably take years to get our house back to the way it was.
Our neighborhood, in Arcadia is utterly devastated with piles of precious belongings, drywall and wooden studs, piled at least 6′ high on every front lawn. The road in front of our house is single lane now. Scavengers come by at night, digging thru our possesions, the noise wakes us up as we try to sleep in our camper. Hoping to feel refreshed for another day of cleaning out our belongings to the heap on the front lawn.. We are both in our 70’s fit and healthy enough to work on making this house a home again. We are really lucky that it is built with concrete block. Very little drywall will be put back, paint and stucco will be our finished article
God bless you glad you are rebuilding. My home is in Venice. I did not get the devestation but my lanai has to be redone. My years of plants trees and bushes I lovingly cared for are gone. But I am going to replant and redo with my son our home too which we love.