We filled bathtubs with water and dug out old radios. When phones blasted out tornado warnings, we huddled in closets and bathrooms. It will be fine, we told the children, trying to sound like we believed it.

Some of us drove for hours in packed cars on even more packed roads – only to find that Irma was heading the same direction. Others hunkered down and tried to keep informed about what was coming, without thinking too much about it.

When it was over we came out, blinking, into the sunlight. Trees were down and power was off. We cleared, cleaned, sweated and tried to get back to normal. In that aftermath, there was a word for people like us: lucky.

Our first hurricane in more than a decade, and the biggest in a quarter century, ended up dealing Fort Lauderdale more of a glancing blow than a knockout. As we dealt with inconvenience and discomfort, we didn’t have to look far to see much, much worse. From the Keys to Cuba to the tiny, devastated island of Barbuda, Irma’s worst was present nearby. With hurricanes, one place’s relief is always another’s tragedy.

If Irma reminded us of our city’s drawbacks – this gorgeous weather comes with a steep price – it also reminded us of the good in our city that can sometimes be overlooked. If it sometimes feels like Fort Lauderdale is growing and changing at breakneck speed, a hurricane reminds us that we are a community. Neighbors acted neighborly. We looked in on each other. We were even patient on the roads; once you’ve seen four-way stops successfully executed at Federal and Oakland, you might just have seen everything.

Now here we are on the other side. Hurricanes can be like New Year’s Eve in that they get people to start making resolutions. Let’s buy that generator, or regularly check on the one getting dusty in the corner of the garage. Let’s keep bottled water. Next time, let’s get out early.

Science tells us we can expect more of this; our warmed ocean will offer bigger, stronger hurricanes. Respite is only ever temporary. Tomorrow, we prepare again.
However today, we can tell each other that we’ve done well.

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