“My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together. We are different precisely in order to realize our need of one another.” ~ Desmond Tutu
The Command and Control Center for Ocean Reef during IRMA was located at the Medical Center at Ocean Reef. Excuse the pun, it was the pulse and the heartbeat of Ocean Reef, from the time of the mandatory evacuation, all the way thru till the cleanup and recovery. The Medical Center was chosen as it was built to withstand hurricane windstorm, and is elevated in case of flooding. It is equipped with a high capacity generator, and 3,000 gallons of diesel fuel, enough for two weeks of full power. Saturday night Sept. 9th, gathered around the conference room table, were some very dedicated people monitoring all things IRMA.
A diverse group of folks, prepared for what might arise. (See the end of the story for a full listing of persons there.)
POST IRMA: On Wednesday I passed by the Med center, and happened to see Rene, Keith, and others, all hot and sweaty, wielding power tools, picking up limbs, collecting debris, righting the things that went wrong… I happened to think? How did it go at Command Central?
According to Rene, on Saturday night the generator failed. With flashlights in hand, in complete darkness, they attempted to fix the generator, with no success. It was a fuel transfer problem; George knew there was a DC pump at engineering, except there was a newly formed river which prevented them from getting to it. By now the the Medical Center was surrounded by water on two sides (The Runway and Barracuda Lane), the wind was howling. There were white caps on the “River” Runway. There was just no way, Rene recalls. So for nearly two long days he fetched water from the River Runway to flush the toilets, and tried to keep cool, a near impossible task. Once the water subsided they were able to traverse the runway, retrieve the pump and jerryrigg a way to transfer fuel.
When Rene told me he had considered swimming over to the pump’s location, I thought… excuse me Doctor, but you are no Michael Phelps, swimmer, the most decorated Olympian of all time. Yes, Rene, a trained doctor, was fetching water from the “river”, helping fix generators and doing what he could to help. Meanwhile Amy was cleaning like crazy and complaining of all these men who were tracking leaves and water on the floor. (You gotta know Amy… but that’s enough for another journal).
Before, during and after the storm, one thing is for certain, no one was afraid to roll up their sleeves. Rene explains, “It's my responsibility to be professional. My patients come to see me as a doctor. The Medical Center is not the place for me to be loose. The ones who don’t know me may see me as buttoned-up, very proper; they don’t know that I like to relax and joke around. I'm very comfortable getting my hands dirty.”
On Monday, Rene said the best thing that happened was trekking to the house on Perky Road to be greeted by his cat “Fern”, who had eluded capture pre-IRMA, and to find out his home at Ocean Reef was okay.
On Tuesday the best thing that happened was seeing a picture someone had posted on social media, of Rene and Amy’s uninsured home on Little Torch Key, ground zero for hurricane IRMA. “We assumed it didn’t survive”, only to find miraculously their home was still standing.
It’s Day Six since the storm. Electricity and water services are scarce to non-existent. Another week or two perhaps for just that. So in the meantime we just try to maintain, to help others. Amy is rolling with her idea of offering to clean out the refrigerators and provide photographs of properties.
Rene’s parting thought.: “There’s an opportunity here. To rebuild, to make things better. There has been much suffering, but we will be stronger in the end.”
Tim James, Dir. of Public Safety and VP of ORCA; Inspector Eddie Fernandez; Officer Neil King - Public Safety
John Lyberger, VP of Club Operations; George Richards, Dir. of Engineering; Sonny Vasquez - Dir. of Safety and Security - Ocean Reef Club
Shawn Buck, Owner of Seaway Plumbing and all his tools.
Bill Gilbert, Kem’s partner and property manager for the island of Pumpkin Key
Keith Young, Medical Center CEO; Dr. Rene and Amy Fernandez, Coordinators Linda Carithers and Pam Zimmerman - Ocean Reef Medical Center
This photographic website provides me the opportunity for self-expression, for sharing