Roger Thomas drove by early Thursday morning….the day after Michael’s visit. “Coach, water flooded my house, I’ve lost most everything. I’m just thankful we are all safe. And it could have been worse. I really feel for those people that got hit harder than we did.”

Don’t nobody out there worry about Port St. Joe!

I’ve known Roger since he was a young boy. And I’ve watched him grow into one of the most stand-up, honest, “good people” that I’ve ever known. He is sincere as a heartbeat. And when he leans out the window of that old truck and tells you, as the Gulf of Mexico is still receding from his home, that he is more concerned about his less fortunate neighbors than he is himself—he means it to the very core of his body!

Listen carefully here, we have a town full of Roger Thomases!

Sure, you can see the trees down in every yard on every street. You can see tall pines and giant oaks sticking through roofs. You can see tin ripped up, shingles missing, boats overturned, windows busted, fences laid flat, debris scattered from here to eternity.

And you can also see homes (and that is way different than a house) that have been destroyed. Totally. The combination of wind and water did their number on them. Those are the “hit harder” friends that Roger has on his mind. That we all have on our hearts and prayers.

Trust me, you don’t want to see our First Baptist Church; or our beautiful Methodist Church down by the bay; or the Long Avenue Baptist Church—three of my favorite places in town! All sustained bone crushing damage.

It’s what hurricanes do. And Michael came and went in a ball of fury.

But don’t you worry about Port St. Joe!

The few neighbors that stayed were in my yard near ’bout before sun up on the day afterwards. They had no electricity. No running water. Most had a fair amount more damage than I sustained. They came with rakes, wheelbarrows, chainsaws and a smile. And a “will to help” planted deep in the American spirit that is alive and well in our little town.

The overriding thought, and the first words you heard from everyone’s lips were, “Are y’all all right?” “Do you know of anyone who is injured?” “Who needs help?”

Not one person stopped by with a discouraging word! Nor have I heard one in the ensuing days. Heavy hearts for sure. We had looked around. The loss was terrific and evident in every direction. We were dazed maybe, even stunned at the lick we had taken, but I can tell you as an eye witness, concern for others was the order of the day!

We knew help was on its way. But we were not waiting on it. The roar of chainsaw music displaced Lady Gaga and Garth Brooks.

Someone said we were “down but not out.” As I looked around town I thought “up and at’em” might be more appropriate. Folks were sharing what food and water they had…..and everything else. I’m telling you, cooperation abounded on every front. As did the hugs and well wishes. We discovered there are things in life way more important than iPods, TiVo’s, football…..even electricity.

You know how people joke about their small city government being like Mayberry. It’s inept, over costly, maybe even backwards thinking…..everybody that ought to be working is over at the barber shop….. Let me tell you about ours, ONE DAY after the worst hurricane in the history of the Florida Panhandle ripped right through us, the city had the water back on! You would have had to have been here to understand what a gift that was.

Here might be the most telling trait of the whole situation. And I may not be a good enough writer for you to fully understand…. We had many folks who sustained only minimal damage. For whatever reasons, luck, fate, Divine Providence, they escaped the mass carnage. They were happy of course. Thankful. Understood to the fullest how blessed they were. BUT they were not overjoyed! They weren’t celebrating their good fortune. Too many friends and neighbors were suffering…..

They were, however, lending a hand. They were checking on the needs around them. They were pulling tree limbs and saltwater soaked dressers, sofas and beds out to the road.

You talk about a group effort! I’ve heard way more laughter than I’ve seen tears. And I’ve never been prouder to be a part of the human race.

If only the world could catch just a whiff of what we’ve got here in our little town today.

Don’t you worry about Port St. Joe!

 

Respectfully,

 

Kes