Saturday, September 27, 2008

What A Great Community the Bolivar Peninsula Still Is!

My family and I went to the Bolivar Peninsula last week and looked over our homes and two businesses in Gilchrist (we were NOT allowed past Rollover Pass because of the damage to the bridge!). Looking over the unfamiliar land was like being in a nightmare that you can't wake up from. We turned off of Hwy 124 onto Hwy 87 and actually SAW the ocean. Two plus weeks ago, there use to be sand dunes of at least five or six feet covered in vegetation. The only thing you could see then was the occasional seagulls flying overhead and HEAR the ocean crashing along the shores and feel the salt air on your face!

The first recognizable landmark is Sharky's (?) RV park. There use to be a pier and enough pads for approximately 10 RV's. All that is left now are the pier's pilings and no more sand dunes to protect the RV's from the surf. In fact, the ocean has reclaimed this area all the way up to the road. Next, we came across Pelican pier which had a bait shop at the end of it; again nothing left, but remnants of pier pilings.

All along highway 87, in several places, the road is pulled up and torn away with the ground underneath just gone for several feet down as if something very large dug it out with claws. In the fields where oil pumps use to be gently bobbing up and down, and cows would graze peacefully next to them, there was no movement and about a dozen empty, overturned and abandoned vehicles; a hint of what a terrifying night September 12th must have been for the fleeing residents of the Bolivar Peninsula!

Coming into the edge of town, we saw the first visible signs of structures that were still erect and we thought half-heartedly, "Maybe it won't be as bad as everyone thinks!" until we got closer and saw that ONLY the upper half of the Coastal Component building was still standing and the "Bird Houses" had plenty of damage including beams of concrete and steel that looked as if they had been filed away in the middle. Still, ten of the original houses were standing proudly erect and tall!

The closer we got to the heart of Gilchrist, the more unrecognizable the terrain became. The beach side that use to house three to four rows of homes were totally GONE and the water had etched deep canals where paved streets were suppose to have been. The geotube or "sand sock" that was put in ten years ago with the help of the GCA (Gilchrist Community Association) to help with the erosion of the beaches was gone in many areas. On the bay side, the view was not much better. The streets were covered in sand and shells and looked as if a bomb had exploded and we were sitting in the middle of ground zero! I personally counted fifteen structures with maybe half of that being more than 50% damaged.

We passed Bay street, where our house use to be before we even realized where we were and after seeing only four feet of wall where the lower half of the house was, I felt overwhelmed with helplessness at the awesome power of Mother Nature! There was nothing left--a sewing machine buried in the sand, a plate here or there and my bathroom tub buried at the end of the next street. Everyone of our family's homes was the same story. Gone, Gone, Gone! A little trinket dug up that was probably not that important to us before Ike, has now, somehow, become the most treasured item we could ever own because it had survived Hurricane Ike.

As we walked along each street, I noticed that others before us had dug up trinkets as well. I got choked up and cried when I saw a pair of muddy binoculars with a side bent in sitting close to where it had been dug up by a thoughtful neighbor and I felt the compassion and love that was symbolized in leaving it where it was found for the rightful owner to reclaim. If looters had made their way to Gilchrist, it was long before we had gotten there because we saw no evidence of it. There's just not enough there to loot!

As humans, we think that we can control our world by owning this or that and maybe we are better than this person because we have this or that, but God has a way of humbling us back to the simple purity of Life and what is really important to hold on to--our families and each other. I thank God that I can proudly say that I come from the kind of community that still knows what it means to help one another out and to be there for each other--Gilchrist and the entire Bolivar Peninsula!!!

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