The winds of Hurricane Charley came and went with astonishing speed. It was a quick climax to the long day spent in front of the TV, as we watched the storm gather strength and direct its wrath right toward us. Where would it hit? The suspense was real-and terrifying.
Sarasota and Venice missed Charley's fury, but many of our neighbors did not. Only after the skies cleared did we realize that the real story of a hurricane is not the storm itself-that strange meteorological phenomenon with its bands and eyes-but rather what happens afterward. So we asked photographers Rebecca Baxter and Bill Speer to document the loss and pain suffered by Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda and Arcadia. The images they came back with show the devastation, certainly. But more importantly, they show the indomitable human spirit after a disaster, the spirit that gives us the strength to dry off and start rebuilding-and even, in the face of ruins, go out and mow the lawn.
GUY WITH TORN FLAG:
Jim Baumgartner of Port Charlotte raises the flag he salvaged from American Legion Post 103.
COUPLE ON PORCH WITH WOMAN TALKING ON PHONE:
TO COME FROM BILL S.
GUY WITH THANKS CHARLEY SIGN:
Charley was as capricious as any human, and Bob Haynes of Punta Gorda Isles thanked the hurricane for sparing him and his home.
GUY MOWING LAWN:
Although the neighborhood looked like a war zone, Dale
Schevenieus felt the need to keep up with his lawn.
COUPLE WALKING DOG:
Charley may have left his mark on Punta Gorda's
century-old historic district, but the dog still needed a walk.
B&W'S by REBECCA:
OLD LADY ON PORCH:
Bonetta Farley of Adel Street in Arcadia surveys the damage from her front porch.
FREE FOOD SIGN:
Neighbor helped neighbor to make sure no one went hungry.
BLACK COUPLE IN DAMAGED HOUSE:
Nearly every home in Arcadia suffered damage, sometimes light, sometimes catastrophic.
OLD HOUSE WITH RUINED FRONT PORCH:
The unique old Florida charm of Arcadia vanished in a matter of minutes.
OPEN AIR CHURCH
Blue skies illuminate Arcadia's now open-air St. Edmunds Episcopal Church.