In the middle of indescribable destruction, faith stands. Photo by Laura McManus

The sound of hammering.
The rapid staccato of nail guns.
Neighbors getting new roofs.
Shingles and metal
replacing blue tarps.
Up and down streets,
storage pods sit 
sheltering valuables saved,
as interiors are gutted 
and renewed.

Businesses reopening,
a few at a time.
Doing their best to serve
ravaged communities.
Some will never return.
Some have returned 
a bit less than what
they were.
Food truck replacing
Help wanted sign 
in the hardware store
that carries only three
types of hammers now.

Children returning to school
sharing classrooms
on useable campuses.
High school 
next to middle. 
mixed with kindergarten. 
Grateful for the portables,
for their teachers,
for the few hours of normal 
each day brings.

Debris piles growing smaller.
Twenty years of trash
collected in three months.
The rumble of trucks
bearing massive loads
a constant sound.
Trees that destroyed homes
demolished power lines
obliterated cables, internet, 
cell coverage, HBO,
gone now.
Those still standing
showing signs of new growth.
Wisps of green decorating
stripped branches.
The skeletal look fading.
HBO and Google returned
to some. Progress.

The Base has been open
for a month.
Units operational.
Though work remains.
A base for the future.
Small victories.

A few miles down the coast,
sagging stilt homes
keep vigil over discarded ruins,
indistinguishable remnants of life.
Salt water swamped palms
now brown and yellow,
slump over sand-covered 
sidewalks bearing treads 
marking repeated passage
of bulldozers and dump trucks.
The smack of hammers,
hum of heavy machines,
camaraderie of out-of-town
contractors breaking for lunch, 
invading the once tranquil
three-mile stretch
where the eye passed.
Progress. Slow and steady.

100,000 trees
planted by 2025,
the first one,
just last week.
A 30-foot, 
cathedral live oak.
A symbol of what was lost.
A symbol of what can be.
A symbol of hope.

© 2019 Jennifer N. Fenwick

In the eye of the Storm: Stories of Survival and Hope from the Florida Panhandle. Coming to Amazon January 24.