I spent some time this weekend looking for Fort Myers Beach after Hurricane Ian. More specifically, helping a friend pick up debris in what used to be her home.
It’s the first time I’ve been on the beach since the storm four weeks ago. Prior to this, I helped another friend, Louise, retrieve supplies from her parent’s house off Maine her street at the foot of her bridge on the beach. See photos and stories here. It was heartbreaking. She was with me on this her second salvage trip.
As I approached the big bridge, I felt a lump of anxiety growing in my stomach. I remember the first time I crossed that bridge. It was during a job interview that took me to Southwest Florida. We arrived via Palm Beach Blvd. Exit I-75. About 30 years ago, there were no fancy skyscrapers along the river. My first impression of the city was unimpressive to say the least.
Then my soon-to-be boss took me on a tour. I left the station on Palm Beach Blvd. And cornered McGregor. I loved the tall swaying palms that were hidden oases in Edison and Ford’s mansions. Fort Her Myers was starting to get a little better.
Cross the bridge to Fort Myers Beach
But when I crossed the bridge to Fort Myers Beach, I gasped. I knew I was home. There is something about seeing steep inclines, bridge tops, and stretches of beach and water in front of you. It’s a decompression moment and it never gets old. But this time I crossed it with fear. I tried to hold back the tear dam, but it had already cracked and finally collapsed. It was as heartbreaking as I feared.
Searching Fort Myers Beach
We drove down Estero Boulevard and at times barely recognized where we were. If I hadn’t followed her friend Tracy Stagnar, I wouldn’t have found the sandy grounds that were her home. Like many, she was evacuated from the island when Hurricane Her Ian approached.
Her home was one block away from the Gulf of Mexico. It’s completely gone. Some of it ended up on Estero Blvd in the backyard of another destroyed property. She noticed the roof, the pink front door, and part of the sofa sticking out from underneath. Also under the sloping roof was one purple UGG boot. Remember the Wicked Witch’s ruby shoes under Dorothy’s house in The Wizard of Oz?
Click the arrow below for the video
Our mission was to try to find something of sentimental value to her, like her father’s Pandora bracelet. Fragments of furniture that the two of them had repaired before they died. Neither was found. But some of her favorite plates by local artist Leoma Lovegrove were still found intact. Also. A ragged sweatshirt from her lost love kept her warm on some dark nights.
After all, they are all just “things”. But when left with “nothing”, those little things mean everything. My heart goes out to the thousands of others in Tracy’s shoes.
Finally, here are some photos I found when searching Fort Myers Beach after Hurricane Ian.