I saw the hope and love in people’s eyes after the hurricane hit, not because they were happy their city, homes, and businesses were destroyed, but because they felt blessed to be alive. The way the community came together and helped one another, was beautiful to watch. Everyone of different backgrounds, religion, and race, came together. Now that we are in the aftermath, and trying to pick up our city and get our lives back on track, everyone has forgotten about us. I realize that the world around us goes on but for many people in Panama City, or it’s surrounding areas, lives are not moving on, lives are at a standstill.
The harsh reality is that people here are suffering to a magnitude that you could only understand if you are here. They are suffering from PTSD, they are lost, depressed, and scared. People don’t know about their future. We are just living day by day. The hospitals here have became so full, that they have had to relocate patients to different cities. The trauma that this storm has caused to me and others, is unbearable. I have not slept or ate well in weeks. On top of that, I have heard from people, that have never been unhappy in their life, feel extremely depressed.
I do not understand how, or why, the devastation that was brought forth in Bay County, particularly in Mexico Beach and Panama City, is not important to the big media stations. If it was for not places, like the Panama City News herald or facebook, I would not or many others would not know what is actually going on in our community. To some, it may not be important enough because that would mean they might have to acknowledge climate change. Or maybe we are not important enough because we cannot be used as a political pawn.
I watch the news, and read articles, and I no longer see anything about the victims of Hurricane Michael on major news networks. Hurricane Michael is now deemed worse than hurricane Katrina, which led them to declare Michael as a category 5 hurricane. Weather stations in Mexico Beach have found the the boxes that measure the wind, measured it at 160 mph sustained winds with gusts of 201 mph. But why did Katrina get more media time? I realize that the midterm elections are coming up and our town is not the only place in the world but why does it seem that mass media is only talking about politics now? I realize this is a politically polarized climate but people cannot forget about us.
FEMA has blamed people in Panama City for not leaving, as if we caused the devastation. They cannot seem to understand that leaving would have done nothing. Leaving would not have scared the hurricane away. Most people didn’t leave for a few reasons. They did not expect the hurricane to be that bad because hurricanes rarely ever hit Panama City. Another reason some of them did not leave is because they are doctors and want to be able to help the community after the hurricane hit. Others in the community did not leave because they were not able to afford it. Many have to return because they cannot to afford to be away.
The damage here looks as as if a bomb went off. I wish I was joking. I wish it was not as severe. So much vegetation, power lines, and buildings are destroyed. I have turned down the wrong street several times and got lost because street signs have been blown away or the trees and debris are piled high on the shoulder of the road, waiting for someone to pick it up, so you cannot see where you are or where you are going. In addition, where I and so many other’s live, sewage is so backed up, we cannot let anything go down the drains and the city cannot keep up with it.
The real problem is that when people forget about us, they stop helping the community. There are many needy people here. Everyone lost something in this hurricane. Some are leaving and never coming back. Some want to leave but cannot because they cannot afford it or something is pulling them from leaving.
Which leads me to the point that though I hope for the best, I expect the worse. So, when the free food and supplies run out, that is when true crime will happen. People will get desperate and will do whatever they need to, to survive. So, as a community, places like Panama City will need to stand together, be strong, and continue to help one another. It doesn’t matter if your neighbors are brown, white, Muslim, christian, Jewish, etc. We should all be helping one another because at the end of the day, all we have, right now, is each other.