By Mary Jean Yon
It might be one of the saddest runs I’ve ever done. It was a post Hurricane Ivan run…one of many since the storm hit Pensacola that served as my own personal way of conducting damage assessments in the area where I work and live during the week. Every evening I explored a different part of the storm-ravaged city. Every evening I gain a growing awareness of how hard this poor community has been hit by the 100+ mile per hour winds that terrorized residents in the early morning hours of September 16. This particular run hit me hard. I found myself standing on the water’s edge, marveling at the calmness of Pensacola Bay and trying to picture the fury that totally destroyed the homes that once stood to my left. And then I noticed the articles of clothing and the blanket and other household items strewn throughout the few remaining trees to the right of me and wondered where and to whom they had once belonged. That’s when it really sunk in…just how long it will take to totally recover from a hurricane of Ivan’s magnitude.
Long after the National Guard leaves town and the Asplund trucks are back on the interstate. Long after the newspapers and television stations stop running the eye popping pictures. That’s when the reality sets in of just how many people are displaced and suffering as a result of a given storm…whether it’s in North Florida, South Florida or anywhere in between. The cleanup challenge is enormous. The rebuilding effort is astounding. But don’t forget the people themselves and the impact upon families and individuals alike. Pensacola and surrounding Escambia County have an estimated total of 9000 houses that were destroyed by Hurricane Ivan. Officials are scurrying to accommodate thousands of people in need of shelter and housing. To believe we’ll return to “normal” is a concept that is hard to grasp.
Slowly but surely, though, “normal” will come. Bless those hardy souls I shared the track with at Pensacola Junior College Tuesday night. And here’s to the small but dedicated group of Monday Downtown runners I saw trying to get their routine re-established. Soon the pain and frustration of the cancelled road races and triathlons will be eased, but here’s hoping none of this is ever forgotten. There’s too much to learn from it all as we strive to help others and to rebuild our homes and our lives. We’ll always figure out a way to run, but finding a home for that family of four might prove a little more challenging. So when you find yourself confronted with an opportunity to give and pledge your own support, whether it’s in the checkout line at Publix or a Red Cross solicitation in your mailbox, go for it. We all need the help!