MIAMI — Life isn’t normal yet, but slowly, it’s getting there.
I just cleaned up my home office, which is where I spend hours reporting and writing about University of Miami sports. During Hurricane Irma, it was our least-protected room. Yesterday we took down the plywood, a sturdy 5/8-inch cut, from our apartment’s exterior windows and sliding glass doors. Based on the location of this particular room — it faces a concrete building — and its three-story height, we left the windows uncovered. We felt good about our chances something wouldn’t come crashing through, but projectile physics wasn’t my area of specialty in college, and neither was atmospheric science. If the storm strengthened and shifted, my office might look quite different today.
That’s why everything had to come down: pictures off the walls, electronics covered and stored, memories tucked into safe places. Restoring order was one of those small projects, an untold number of which are happening across South Florida. Everywhere, people are putting things back in place so they can return to life as they knew it.
Or something close to it.
Though we’ll have stories to tell for generations, there’s a point where the aftermath becomes past tense. That point is coming soon. Here’s more evidence: the Hurricanes, a source of joy for many in this region, have secured a place to practice leading up to their home game against Toledo on Sept. 23.
UM announced Thursday it will decamp to Orlando, on a day yet to be determined, to train at the expansive fields at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. In a press release, UM said it opted to shift operations three and a half hours north as “campus leadership and emergency crews continue to assess the damage to the Coral Gables campus.”
This week, players began migrating to Orlando, where they’ve been enjoying a few days of non-football activity on this two-week bye. No. 17 Miami hasn’t played a game since Sept. 2, when it opened the year with a 41-13 win over Bethune-Cookman. Hard Rock Stadium will be football-ready when the Hurricanes return.
Miami-Toledo is nine days from Thursday. That’s a countdown to an event in South Florida no one will mind.
Around this city, four days after Hurricane Irma, they’re cutting branches and sweeping streets, piling debris, fixing homes, reopening businesses. Our building wasn’t damaged, and our power went out for 12 hours, but many of our friends and neighbors are still sweating through too-hot Miami days and nights without electricity. In this area, cell and wireless service are spotty, gas to power generators and cars hardly a sure thing. All are unlikely to be taken for granted once they return in full.
Kids are still out of school, and I think about them. This storm has been a transformative experience for hundreds of thousands of adults, and no doubt, for many children of a certain age. The fearsome weather was one thing. The darkness and crashing overhead were scary enough. It’s lighthearted to think of all this as an unexpected vacation — hey, running from a storm beats homework — but the sobering reality is, a yet-unknown number of kids will have questions about where they will sleep now, and what happened to the room they used to know. Those are hard to answer.
I think of the elderly and those without security in their living spaces, and how much added stress this has put on them. I think of those who didn’t have the money to deal with something like this, not this month, not ever. I think of those who can’t remember the last good meal they had.
I think about the people in the Keys and the Caribbean, who took Irma’s hardest punches. Judging by reports, the devastation down there is immense, and they have a long road to normalcy. It may never be the same in some areas, though I believe the unique spirit there cannot be broken.
So as my family reorganizes its life, we think of how fortunate we are, and try to help others who need it more than we do. I’ve acquired a few blisters and cuts from cleanup at neighbors and friends’ houses, and boy, those are worthy scrapes. If you’re able, please, go find someone who needs a hand and offer it. I’m proud of the people I know here, who dropped everything to help. Everywhere I’ve been in the last few days, I’ve seen people coming together to rebuild.
Frankly, it was beautiful.