Marianna, Florida, may be 90 kilometers north of where Hurricane Michael made landfall, but it was not spared the storm’s fury.
There are countless homes damaged by trees that snapped in half like toothpicks and some were completely uprooted.
‘Help a neighbor. Help a friend’
In the midst of the devastation, the warm smell of a makeshift campfire was drawing people to Eugene Brown’s auto detailing shop called Eastend Auto.
There, a cup of freshly brewed coffee was offered to many tired and overwhelmed residents and travelers who have been living without electricity. If the timing was right, a stranger may even get hash browns and eggs for breakfast here.
“Life is what you make of it. If you can adapt to it, adapt to it. Help a neighbor. Help a friend. Feed somebody. Give them some water because we’re going to need a community to come together as one so that we can make (it) through this,” Brown said.
Using a wheelbarrow and putting wood from the debris inside to make fire, Brown has figured out a way to eat, drink and survive. His cousin and some friends gathered around the campfire. He said growing up in a small community just a few miles away gave him the ability to adapt.
“We grew up where we didn’t have no water. We had to get water from our neighbors,” Brown said.
Learning survival skills
As an adult, Brown joined the Marines and learned the concept of survival of the fittest. He decided to ride out the storm in his shop with his German shepherd because he said his building is sturdy and not surrounded by many trees. But when the hurricane hit, even his Marine training did not prepare him for the experience.
“Horrific, horrifying, I mean what can you say? Wind everywhere. Doors slamming, I mean, it’s unimaginable.” Brown continued, “(It’s) real bad, but we will survive. We will survive. A lot of people a whole lot worse off than what we are.”
Residents said some people evacuated, many others did not. Some of them said they did not expect the storm to be that bad because of the town’s distance from the coastline.
Brown said he felt blessed to be alive and with his friends.
“Our town will never be the same again, I mean it is, oh my God, my heart, I’m going to tell you the truth, my heart just goes out to everybody,” he said.
Not the same
Brown said the town of Marianna may not be the same, but it can be better, as neighbors help each other clear debris, share food, supplies and rebuild their town as a community.
“The times that we have to come together as a family and pray together and stay together, and I think this right here is going to bring us a whole lot closer. I really do.”