Cover Image by Cindy K. Sickles

October 10, 2018, changed us forever. It was hard to imagine coming back from this. But at heart, the people of the Florida Panhandle are strong. They are the heroes in this story. The ones who inspire hope and wield inexhaustible strength. This is their story. Told in their own words. In their poetry. In the images they captured.

Hurricane Michael brought so many changes to the Panhandle of Florida. The most obvious changes, to the landscape and to the buildings, is unmistakable. Following the storm, the area looked like a warzone.

One thing that has not changed is the resilience and faith of the people in the region. Watching the countless volunteers, the residents reaching out in their own hour of need to help another, witnessing random acts of kindness daily, has been inspiring and life-affirming.

In the Eye of the Storm: Stories of Survival and Hope from the Florida Panhandle is a collection of stories from people who rode out the storm, were first on the scene in the aftermath, who have weathered the weeks and months since Michael slammed into the area, and who have come from far and wide to assist. They are daily reminders of the strength of the human spirit and the power of hope so needed in the aftermath.

Countless people rode out the category 4 (almost category 5) storm and swear they will never do it again. Volunteers pouring into the state in the days following the destruction repeatedly said they have never seen anything like it. City and county officials promise rebuilding has begun and that the area will be back stronger than ever.

It’s the residents though, the ones who woke the following morning to a world inexplicably altered, that are at the heart of this project. The survivors. The broken. The devastated. It’s their voices that tell the story best. Their beauty and resilience is inspiring and so worthy of recognition. This is for them.

This book is possible only through the generosity of the individuals willing to share their stories, their pain, and their grief with me. They are true warriors, able to put into words everything we all felt in those first days, and all we continue to feel as our new reality settled upon us.

A special thank you to Linda Artman, who in her volunteer efforts throughout the area, came across so many people with broken but hopeful hearts, and stories that inspire and put into perspective the chaos and trauma that followed in Michael’s wake.

Thank you to the many contributors who allowed me to use their stories, poetry, and art in this project. They put into words all we were feeling. Their images captured the devastation, but also the hope.

Contributors: Malinda Adams, Linda Artman, Jessica Ayers and POPSUGAR, Jared Brooks, Heather Clements, Ashley Davis, Jason Davis, Emma Fenwick, John Fenwick, Nichole Fenwick, Erica McNabb Floyd, Jeff Haire, Melinda Hall, Jason Hedden, Kim Mixon Hill, Karsun Design Photography, Kristi Kirkland, Sandi Klug-Lard, Tracy Johnstone, Laura McManus, Tony Miller, AB Nelson, Rebekah Nelson, Johanna Rucker, Lauren Shelton, Cindy K. Sickles, Tony Simmons
and The News Herald, and Jane Smith.

In the Eye of the Storm: Stories of Survival and Hope from the Florida Panhandle coming to AMAZON January 24, 2019. All royalties earned from the sale of this book are being donated to the United Way of Northwest Florida’s Hurricane Michael Relief and Disaster Fund. 100% of all Hurricane Michael donations will be applied to LOCAL relief efforts in the Northwest Florida area. For donations visit http://unitedwaynwfl.org/