In my last article in Life in Naples it was a matter of suspense for me as to whether Ian was going to affect us. I also gave a brief description of the hurricanes, that since living in Naples I had experienced, which was four.
Well, by the time you read this there won’t be much that I can add. I have never seen anything like Hurricane Ian, and that’s after living in Naples for almost 50 years. Many of my friends lost everything, and I have no doubt that everybody knows someone who was affected. My grandson lost his car, and my other grandson lost his home.
I might surprise you if you were to ask me about that my concerns will be moving forward. 2023 is the City of Naples 100th Birthday and there was much talk about celebrations and parties and lots of fun happenings throughout the year. I am going to be as candid as I can be — those of you who know me understand that I tell it the way I see it.
I respectfully suggest to the powers that be that the birthday celebration be put off for at least a year. Let the City use that money they were going to spend on celebrating to help as many folks as they can in this time of need. Yes, I was told that maybe we do need something to celebrate and that might well be the case, which normally I would agree with, but not with this devastating hurricane. One needs to understand the psychological, emotional and physical stress that a disaster of this magnitude brings. This also brings a certain amount of survivor guilt, if we were to be celebrating while there are so many people that have been drastically affected. This is only my opinion, but I feel strongly about it.
I have a friend who is a Kindergarten teacher with the Collier County School System — her husband is also a teacher with the system. It was shortly after the streets had opened that I asked her if she had seen any of the damage in the city. Her answer was no, and I asked her would she like to and she said yes so we arranged to meet.
We started on the North End of the city on Crayton Road, then cut over to Gulfshore Blvd. and then to Port Royal and back through Old Naples. There wasn’t much conversation, but I watched her face, which
registered more emotions than I could count. I am by nature an emotional person, and I literally had to take a few deep breaths watching her reactions. I’m sure there are many of us that felt the same way,
including myself when the enormity of the damage registered.
As a former Mayor of the City of Naples I am asked on a daily basis where do we go from here. I wish I could put it in a brief paragraph and sum it up, but I can’t. The trickle-down effect is going to take years to see the end result. Things that we don’t normally think about will surface — one example is prior to the hurricane ever being an item, the employment situation was a major problem. Everywhere you looked there was a help wanted sign in almost every store window.
So the question is, where are we going to get the people to help us rebuild? Finally, I will tell you the scammers will be out in full force! Beware of people knocking on your door and saying they are a roofer
or a builder and can fix any damage you might have. If you don’t see a permit from either the City of Naples or Collier County don’t fall for it — it will be expensive!
I’m still an optimistic guy. I know we will make it back better than ever but it’s going to take some time. I wish you all a Happy Holiday Season, although in reality my words feel somewhat hollow. I know you will do your utmost, as I will, to help someone who is in need this Holiday Season. It will be the best gift we can give, and every little act of kindness will count.
I do respond at firstname.lastname@example.org
BILL BARNETT, Former Mayor