Northeast Florida stood strong these past few days in facing down — and enduring — the rage of Hurricane Irma and the record-breaking floods it unleashed on low areas.
Throughout the area, we showed the country and the world how we could successfully grapple with adversity and emerge not entirely unscathed but largely safe on the other side.
It wasn’t that way for all Floridians as many in the southern part of the state were hit by a much larger and stronger Irma. They displayed the tenacity but found themselves often powerless at the mercy of an undiminished hurricane.
They are still surveying the extent of the damage in that part of our state.
And in our part, too, the damage is not hard to find.
But make no mistake:
We have much to be thankful for.
And we have lots of reasons to express genuine gratitude.
Thanks should go to our elected officials who worked overtime to make sure we were kept well-informed of the dangers. At the top, Gov. Rick Scott was a model of efficiency as he implored residents to evacuate when necessary or to prepare themselves when evacuation wasn’t needed or even possible.
In our city Mayor Lenny Curry and Sheriff Mike Williams worked together in decisive fashion — both before and after the hurricane — to keep residents safe.
And in other areas of Northeast Florida, mayors and commissioners kept watch on their communities.
Often behind the scenes, emergency management officials quickly responded to dangers, including the unanticipated flooding that swamped waterside areas.
Law enforcement throughout Northeast Florida was on the roads almost constantly to look for residents in peril and other hurricane-caused problems. The Florida Highway Patrol kept the state’s highways largely flowing to ensure timely evacuations.
Fire and emergency services responders responded to hundreds of emergencies and in Duval County alone conducted 356 water rescues. Emergency dispatchers often slept overnight in their offices so call centers would be constantly staffed.
Throughout the state, 8,000 National Guard troops lent their support to local agencies.
Prior to the storm, city workers swarmed over Jacksonville to clear drains and ditches in anticipation of an Irma-spawned deluge. The Florida Department of Transportation removed roadway hazards so they wouldn’t impede traffic.
Workers from JEA and other utility companies were out in the field toiling tirelessly to restore electricity — even before Irma’s winds had entirely quieted.
The Jacksonville Humane Society evacuated many of its dogs and cats to other shelters, so they could rescue and house animals abandoned or separated during the storm.
The news media kept their reporters and editors working throughout the storm to make sure readers and listeners had the latest details. Some, such as the staff at WJCT, even slept at their offices.
And then there were the private businesses that remained open except during the storm’s most-intense hours to ease the lives of hurricane-bound residents.
After all, sometimes it’s these small things that lend a sense of normality to a chaotic time.
Many convenience stores and gas stations opened quickly. Food trucks were out feeding mobs until they ran out of food. And thank goodness for Waffle House, which quickly began serving its signature waffles the morning after Irma passed.
Finally, there was the multitude of individual acts of kindness that sprung almost spontaneously from Irma’s wrath.
Neighbors checking on neighbors to make sure they’d weathered the storm safely. Strangers helping strangers clear their yards of debris. People inviting others to shelter in their homes, share a cooked meal or even take a welcome hot shower.
Now that the storm has passed, it’s time to recognize everyone who helped make this area safer and Irma less burdensome.
A simple “thank you” — written or verbal — carries a potency far greater than its mere two words.
So thank you.
Thank you to everyone who reached out a hand to help others during this region’s grave moment of crisis.
Your strength, resolve and charity are what make this area great.