Hurricane Michael hit Panama City, Florida, in October 2018. Almost two years later, the recovery work is still ongoing and helping hands are much-needed.
Back in the same neighborhood
A steady 43 years in the same area; until Hurricanes Irma and Michael paid a visit. Karen and her mother Irene can now look forward to moving to that same neighborhood again.
When growing up, Irene used to play with her friends on the streets in the peaceful neighborhood in the outskirts of Panama City, Florida. The branches of the lush trees lining the streets were hanging down over the children. This was her home.
The house that she and her family lived in was theirs for over 40 years. When Hurricane Irma hit parts of Panama City in 2017, they lost it. A big water oak fell through the living room in the house where Karen and Irene just had fixed a big breakfast. That was the beginning of a struggle they both will never forget.
“We realized that the house was lost. We were lucky to be able to borrow a friend’s house. And this is what Irma caused, a hurricane that was not even that strong in our area. When Michael came, which was so much worse, we were already out of our home. I can just imagine the devastation if we had been in our house during Michael,” says Karen.
When coming back to the quiet streets just a few days after Hurricane Michael, both Karen and Irene were shocked.
“We didn’t recognize where we were, because it had changed so much. Trees were gone, it was all just devastation,” says Irene.
Right after the hurricane, the media coverage was extensive, but the buzz didn’t last long.
“Michael was the forgotten hurricane. We even had Good Morning America coming down here the first days, and then they re-visited us a few months afterwards, almost expecting everything to be fixed. But of course, it wasn’t,” says Karen.
The volunteer work through Habitat for Humanity has therefore been important, and when Karen and Irene qualified to build and purchase a Habitat home, they were relieved. Their house is now almost ready for them to move into. In that very same neighborhood where Karen grew up.
“What I have missed most is being in our own home.” she says. “Knowing that you never have to move again. To be able to lay your head down and know: You’re home.”