The political sign in your front yard cannot save you now.
Hurricane Ian is approaching, and it doesn't give a damn about which party you are affiliated with, how you feel about vaccinations, or if you think the 2020 presidential election was rigged or not.
It has one objective, and that is to obliterate homes, shoot telephone poles into boats and send lawn furniture to Arcadia while laughing at the notion of political partisanship.
To be sure, there will be Republicans cowering in their closets, just like there will be Democrats praying to the heavens to please, just make the freight train stop. Our time has finally come, it appears, and so it would be wise to note that after the last power line has been toppled all we'll have left is each other.
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That guy you no longer talk to because he voted for Trump? He may have a chainsaw that can cut down the tree on top of your garage. The neighbor you hate because he went Biden? He may have a charged cell phone so you can call your family in Ohio just to tell them you are alive.
Perhaps at no other time in this country's history have we been more divided. Well, now would be a pretty good time to cast that pettiness aside and start getting along. Our very survival may depend on it.
That's the funny thing about these storms, though. They always seem to bring out the best in us.
Remember Irma in 2017? People in our area cooked for others and helped put tarps on the roofs of strangers. Someone dressed up as Spiderman while cutting down tree limbs, just to lighten the mood a bit. Sheriff's deputies were rescuing stranded manatees. People left thank-you notes on the walls of classrooms that were used for shelters.
There was a sign at a storage facility near the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport that summed it all up appropriately: "Dear everybody, thank you for everything."
Around the state was the same spirit. There was a photo of a nun in Miami cutting down trees with a chainsaw. And who could forget the Osceola County Sheriff's deputy who danced with the frightened 81-year-old lady in a shelter? He sang Bobby Darin's "Somewhere Beyond the Sea" to her, the same song he once sang to his children.
And if storms heighten our sense of compassion, they also enhance resolve, perhaps on a level a community never knew it had.
I was in Punta Gorda a few hours after Hurricane Charley hit, walking around Charlotte High School with some administrators, seeing the unspeakable damage for the first time, and it truly was unspeakable.
We made our way to the football stadium, and someone noticed the scoreboard, where there used to be two signs next to each other that hung down. One read "Tarpon" and the other one read "Pride."
The "Tarpon" sign had blown away.
The "Pride" sign remained intact.
I have never seen something so horrible and heartbreaking as the way Punta Gorda looked after Charley in 2004. And yet the town rebuilt, better than before.
A new school was built too, and there is a display case in the lobby that holds a few reminders of what happened on the afternoon of Aug. 13, 2004 and what can happen when people work together.
Of particular note is a plaque that reads in part:
"This school, like five others that were completely lost in the winds of that August, has risen from the rubble to reawaken as the magnificent enduring structure you see today.
"This plaque, and this school, are dedicated to the countless numbers of caring people and organizations, from near and far, who gave tirelessly to the recovery efforts and to the students who inspired us to build anew so they could have a school again to call their own.
"Never again will the winds be feared, never again."
Contact columnist Chris Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please support local journalism by purchasing a digital subscription.
This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Hurricane Ian 2022: Looking back at Punta Gorda rebuilding in 2004