Surviving a hurricane from the Eye of a SWFL Senior

It’s five days since IAN the Terrible ravaged our communities. It tore through our homes, schools, stores, and beautiful island beaches. Having been through a few of these natural disasters before, one should never have to witness these things.

How does one get these images out of your head?

Go ahead and google, -----“Find the words to describe a category 4/5-hurricane.” One will get explosive, fierce, raging, and relentless; adjectives that define the mass destruction Southwest Florida recently experienced. But, I have trouble coming up with words that describe the understated losses.--- The little things we grieve.

As I rode out the storm at my daughter's home we sat around on our devices up until the last minute. We were trying to get as much information about our fate as possible. All awhile the 140-mile winds per/hour pounded against every wall, window door, and roof surrounding us. Once everything stopped, we mustered the courage to go outside and assess the damage. And it was that moment I thought of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz when she was holding onto Toto outside her house and thinking, Am I still in Kansas?  

We were lucky. We had no water surging into her home which was not the case for much of Southwest Florida. We all know now that water and wind should be taken seriously, and respected. -----If you think you're smarter and stronger than the elements that have threatened you in the past, you are dead wrong. They will return next time with a vengeance!

We made the walk that everyone fears after the chaos stops. Unlike Dorothy, we did not experience that moment of surprise and beauty when stepping into technicolor. Instead, we found everything my daughter and her family worked so hard to build, their little piece of paradise now ravaged. Things were scattered everywhere where they didn't belong.  Fences, boats, roof shingles, gutters, furniture, and anything people hoard outside. Half of what you rescued showed up from somewhere else. It now looks like a war zone.

And then there are the trees. Think about how long it takes a tree to grow and fill out. Especially here in Cape Coral, where I live. The city has only been around since the early 60s. In developing and building miles of canals they took down all the native trees. If you lost a tree, you lucked out if the tree missed your house.

But my family and I are the lucky ones. First, we are grateful to have survived and only sustained damage outside our homes. And now, without cable, we can’t see all the destruction of our beaches and fishing towns washed out. Bridges are gone, cars submerged, and so much leveled. So much destroyed; gone, gone, gone! This gift of ignorance, as it lasts for us, is a blessing.

So what about the subtle losses that we will suffer? Like a beautiful garden of flowers and vegetables, one labors to perfection, and all the bird feeders so we could enjoy their visits. How about your favorite little coffee spot now underwater and knowing that you may never see the sunset again from Bowman’s Beach on Sanibel? Some of the bright spots to be grateful for are the Blue Dog and the Dairy Queen on Pine Island that we're told are still standing. Also, the Bubble Room and the Mucky Duck on Captiva we hear made it. Getting there is another story.

When I arrived at my condo building after the storm, I was sad to see my neighbors. The building flooded up to four feet throughout the whole downstairs. They lost everything, including their cars outside; so much destroyed from those surging canal waters. Then I saw one of my favorite things at my little condo complex. It was the bottlebrush tree that I see every day from my lanai window. It reminds me of a weeping willow up north. I have always loved it and even named it. We always kept it trimmed evenly, straight across, 5-6 feet up from the ground. I called it Moe, after the character in the Three Stooges. He was known for his perfect bowl cut.

Spending time with my family and chatting with their neighbors, during our 4-5 dog walks a day, you come across people in the neighborhood you’ve never met or spoken to.----- I also realize that loss is generational. The young will grieve for becoming cut off from friends, entertainment, and social media. Parents of growing families are scrambling with how to recover, start over and make their futures safe. And then the seniors--- who feel every little bit of loss . The longer you live, it hard to see things gone. Perhaps, we will not be around to see everything come back. We also are more sentimental and feel for the modest little pleasures.

So as we ride it out, waiting for our power to come back on and find gasoline, many will still venture out. Many will drive to the beaches to get a peek of what is and what was. They will find the stench of rotting fish and god knows what else.

While I am retired, I have been substituting in the schools in my area for about two years. I am ready to get back. I know there are teachers that have lost everything and are facing an uncertain future. I hope with everyone else who's lost so much, all will rebound. May everyone find a path back to a safe and happy home with work and a future for their families. While I am strong, keeping healthy and still with a desire to work, I will continue to be of use to my community.

I dedicate this story to my neighbors at the Manor. And everyone else who loves their home and want to get back to a life they miss and deserve. And one last thing. -----I will miss you Moe. I will remember the beauty you brought me when I looked out my Lanai along the canal gulf waters.

And I pledge to respect the wind and the water. As a friend or foe, I will never take either of you for granted. 

----by Jill Modell-Dion

(I did not include devastating photos post hurricane. Just a few to show our beautiful little paradise at the Manor.)


Our Building before hurricane  


  Dock before hurricane


Moe through lanai window before  


   Moe after hurricane       


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  • Anthony on

    Love this! 💕

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