Published On: Fri, Sep 22nd, 2017

Irma Brought out the Best in Us, the Worst in a few

By: C. Ron Allen

As Hurricane Irma slowly weaves her way into the annals of history, I think it is only appropriate that we postmortem on this devastating disaster that wreaked such havoc in our lives.

Although – fortunately – no lives were lost in Boca Raton and Delray Beach, the damage and destruction is far more than anyone expected.

It would be an understatement to say that Irma brought out the best in our community’s character. As people scrambled to stock up on food and other essential supplies at the 11th hour, I saw neighbors, strangers and just plain folks threw their all into helping each other to board up windows and put up shutters.

That tremendous show of people helping each other during this crisis is a reminder that despite widening political differences, Boca Raton and Delray Beach residents are decent people who care deeply about each other.

Thank you to the first responders – fire and law enforcement personnel – who worked tirelessly while facing damage to or loss of their own properties, as well as those volunteers who assisted with rescue and relief efforts.

Much credit to our mayors, city managers and chiefs of police who made it clear they would not be dispatching you during the storm for safety reasons. I fully understand and support such a call.

Kudos also to Gov. Rick Scott who showed true leadership during this crisis. Sporting his U.S. Navy ball cap, the former radar man was decisive, he communicated effectively in both English and Spanish and he was a voice of assurance when people needed that fearless leader.

I am sure he will give much credit to the Navy for instilling that “take charge attitude” in him early in life.

Interestingly, I and many can still hear Gov. Scott on the news urging residents to “get out now!”

Thank you Governor for your leadership.

The same can be said about communication from our local officials. Delray Beach and Boca Raton kept residents informed via email, texts and social media before, throughout and after the crisis.

Thanks to Florida Power & Light workers who labored around the clock to ensure we had service as soon as humanly possible.

Both cities failed their residents miserably though by not thinking ahead in terms of logistics after the storm. It is common sense that after any hurricane, at least in our areas, people would be out of electricity for days. Therefore, someone should have made plans to distribute water, ice and food for the needy.

I heard of an incident in Delray where while knocking on doors to check on residents after the storm, code enforcement officers learned that an elderly woman did not have electricity to preserve her medication. They arranged for her to get ice, an act that could have made a difference between saving a life and death.

As city leaders, both elected and hired, your duties involve more than to ensure that taxes are collected, streets are cleaned and trash is picked up. It is to make sure that a small task, such as providing ice for resident’s medication – which, by the way is not on their job description – gets done.

Then there were those who used this opportunity to prey on the vulnerable during this time. Among them were gas stations (some who hiked their prices as soon as it was reported that the storm was coming our way) and one of our institutions for higher learning who reportedly sold a case of water for $13, $10.01 more than Wal-Mart, where a case was for $2.99.

I guess that is still a deal, compared to a  24-pack of 16.9-ounce bottles of Ice Mountain Brand spring water that was priced at $99.99 on Amazon.com from a third-party seller called BestSource OfficeSupplies.

The same product was sold for between $8 to $44.90 at 39 online stores.

The days following the storm, neighbors pulled together again to help each other cut away downed trees from off cars and homes and clear driveways and streets of branches.

At Village Academy in Delray Beach, community leaders rallied with a chainsaw, a table saw and a blower to clear downed branches so students could return to a safe campus the following Monday.

It could take between 90 and 120 days for debris to be cleared, school officials said.

This was indeed a textbook case of neighbors helping neighbors. Unfortunately it took a feisty woman name Irma to bring out the best in everybody.

The early response to the ravages of Irma shows that deep down we know what really matters: People helping each other.

 C. Ron Allen can be reached at editor@bocaratontribune.com or 561-665-0151.

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