A tiny Florida beach town is rebuilding after a hurricane. Is it becoming a preserve of the rich?
FEMA was born in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and now it has begun delivering aid to Florida, the Gulf Coast’s poorest state. FEMA has already received more assistance in the form of cash, rental vouchers, and medical care than it gave in all of 2005. The agency is now looking at how other counties can follow its example.
When the storms hit on Aug. 24 and Aug. 25, many families had to evacuate to Florida from places as diverse as Panama City, Texas, and Fort Myers, Florida, which lies directly on the Gulf of Mexico about an hour south of Key West. In these towns, FEMA agents were not only on hand to deliver food and water, but also to assess whether the needs of the locals had passed.
I was there. My husband, John, and I left Panama City on Aug. 25, on the 4:05 a.m. flight from Tampa. And we were lucky. Our flight was canceled after we checked in. A few hours later, we were in Fort Myers. We stayed at a Holiday Inn Express. Later we booked a beach cabin at Sea Colony, a resort owned by one of the family members of former President George W. Bush. John and I are both retired and have two adult sons who don’t work. We weren’t looking for luxury, but we wanted a place where we could enjoy each other without putting strain on our finances.
We did have one concern. The last time John and I and our two boys went on vacation, we had never been to Florida. We didn’t know if our boys would be as comfortable there as they would be in the Caribbean. How much would they get to do? Would we lose the privacy of the ocean? Could we get into trouble?
We’d already been planning to go for a month. We had booked it in June. We were going to spend a week with my mom and her family in Tallahassee and then take a weeklong weekend on the Gulf Coast. We had to book the flight. We were going there and back.
The first thing we felt when we got to Florida was how warm it was. We hadn’t experienced a tropical storm that warm in decades. We thought we’d be home within 24 hours. We planned to walk to the beach and check