Helping clean-up after Hurricane Ian

My trip to Florida


Anna Williams

Freshman Sophie Miller and Claire Williams remove the remaining shingles from a roof Oct. 20. Family friends and I went to Florida to help clean up after Hurricane Ian.

Anna Williams

Hurricane Ian made landfall in southwestern Florida as a Category Four hurricane Sept. 28. The overwhelming devastation extended from islands and into the mainland. Over the news, the nation watched as residents of Florida sought rescue from flooding, power outages, debris-filled streets and a mass destruction of their cities. The trip I had planned to Sanibel Island for MEA weekend became non-existent and was put on hold, until our plans were changed to accommodate the destruction and help a family that was in need.

The friends we had planned to go on the trip with had a relative who lived in Fort Myers and was overwhelmed with the devastation of his home and his community. It had been one month since the storm, and though many areas were starting to be cleaned up, debris still littered the streets. Pieces of houses had settled into the branches of trees and the damages to people’s homes left them in desperate need of repair. Because of this, we decided to fly down to Florida and help our friends’ relative re-shingle his roof and fix other parts of his home.

On our flight to Florida, I met people who were traveling to help families, document the devastation and aid in residents’ recovery from the storm. Speaking with so many people who came from different places, backgrounds and perspectives was eye-opening. Despite their differences, they were all coming together to support other people and tackle the damage of the storm, which restored my faith in the goodness of people. With all of the division in our world today, it was nice to see peoples’ willingness to help each other.

After arriving in Florida, I saw the devastation for myself. I saw furniture in the streets, piers broken and fallen into the ocean, tarps covering lost roofs and people struggling to repair both homes and businesses. As we entered the community, my family, friends and I saw the damage that their relative’s home had; their roof had shingles missing, metal dangling from it, and the screen on the side of their house was ripped. It was a hard sight to see, especially knowing that there were others that were off far worse. Nevertheless, my friend’s parents assessed the roof and made a plan to fix it. We went to the nearest Home Depot and found the necessary supplies to start our project. The next day, we got to work.

Being up on the roof made me gain a new perspective both literally and figuratively. I could see so much more of the ruined city and just how many lives were affected by this destructive storm. However, I also had been given the opportunity to realize how I could make an impact on peoples’ lives — even if just a small impact — and how fortunate I was to be in a position where I could. I felt so blessed to have all of my possessions and for my home to be a safe place to come back to.

The job I was tasked to do was destroying the remaining shingles, which was very labor-intensive but gratifying work. It took us four hours of constant physical labor to complete — shoveling, hammering, peeling nails from wood and tearing shingles from the roof. It was all worth it because after our first day, we had the opportunity to meet other people who were actually in the storm. One person was on Sanibel Island when the hurricane hit. The flooding came quickly and as the water started rushing into his house, he held onto his refrigerator and put his dog on his couch. The water kept rising, and he broke the window to climb onto his roof to wait for rescue. Hearing these stories from real people and not just news headlines really put into perspective the severity of the storm and the impact it had on peoples’ lives.

My family friends finished the rest of the roofing, but the part I played was very gratifying. This experience is something I am so grateful for and am blessed to have been a part of. It inspired me to serve my community and surrounding communities more — to meet new people, expose myself to the different lifestyles and struggles, and gain a humbling perspective — because you never know the profound impact it will have on your own life.