Written by: Bianca Lopez- Fall ’17 Intern
September 2017

As you all may know, Hurricane Irma hit Florida and devastated many of our beautiful cities; the power of this single storm was shocking. Yes, living in a coastal state makes you aware that there’s a high chance of experiencing a hurricane; especially from June to the end of November when Floridians hope they won’t get the BIG ONE. But none of us had ever experienced one quite like Irma. As someone who has lived in Florida for all 23 years of my life, I hold my breath and hope for the best each time a major storm is in the direction of Florida. Prior to Irma, 2004 was the last time Florida really had to worry about a powerful major storm; that year Florida got hit was 4 hurricanes- Charley, Francis, Ivan, and Jeanne.

When the 2004 storms hit Florida I was only in 5th grade, and as a nine-year-old, I was not particularly concerned about a storm. All I could think was, “cool! We don’t have to go to school for a few days!”. It was an exciting feeling because it’s common knowledge that in the north they get snow days, so in Florida, we would oddly hope for hurricane days. But this time was different. As a well-aware 23-year-old, Irma terrified me. So much so, the anxiety of it made me physically ill. It wasn’t about missing school, or missing days from my internship at 78Madison; it was that this was a massive storm that could potentially impact my city, my family, and my friends. I was old enough to realize how bad this hurricane really was and how lucky we have been to not have to prepare for a storm of this magnitude for quite a while.

No doubt Hurricane Irma was a roller coaster, changing paths what felt like 100 times. It would gain strength, and lose it…go east, then west, then east again. It was so unpredictable that you really weren’t sure what your fate was going to be until it was on your doorstep. Irma was the biggest hurricane anyone has ever seen spanning 400 miles wide, with an eye that was 30 miles wide. To put this into perspective, Irma could cover the entire state of Texas; point being it didn’t matter where you were in Florida, Irma was coming for you, you just didn’t know how bad.

Taking some cues from hurricane Harvey, which had devastated Texas a few weeks earlier; it was amazing to see all of the Floridians getting prepared well before Irma’s unwanted arrival, rather than our usual last minute half-hearted attempts to get ready. And thank god we did; Irma made landfall on the Florida Keys as a category 4 on September 9th, 2017 and exited Florida on September 11th, 2017, leaving a path of destruction that many have yet to experience before. Yet on September 12th, everyone kicked into recovery mode. Neighbors, strangers, people from out of state came to help clear up debris, cook meals for those without power, even simple things such as delivering ice to those in need. Mostly people who had their own “storm” problems to deal with but who had put all that aside to make sure others were being tended to.

I read an amazing story on Facebook, it was a story of selflessness, and kindness. There was a man in the Florida Keys, named Julio Melendez, who lost everything. He lost not only his home, but also his landscaping equipment- which was his livelihood - and the man was living out of his truck. Yet despite his personal tragedy, His personal response to the storm was to selflessly help others by using his truck to deliver ice to people all over Key West. Julio had everything taken from him by hurricane Irma yet his first response was to do what he could for others around him. Plus, as people reached out to help him, his first instinct was to give what he was given to others. Amazing! The heart of humanity still beats… so much so that a GoFundme account was indeed started for Julio, and so far, is over $30,000.

I cannot even begin to describe how absolutely heartwarming it is to see communities coming together in a time of need after major devastation to help each other out. It gives me hope in humanity, and for a moment it allowed me to see that not everyone in this world is mean, and selfish. There are people all over Florida still dealing with the affects from Irma -some people just getting power back after two weeks; some continuing to deal with the clean-up; and many stores trying to restock food.
But most important, I am confident we will bounce back. We are #FloridaStrong and we can get through anything.

Bianca Lopez
Intern, 78Madison
Student, The University of Central Florida

78Madison is a full-service marketing communications firm (advertising agency) located in Orlando Florida (Altamonte Springs Florida).