Panama City Beach Florida is where my family and I called home for three months. My Husband was attending dive school in 2011, and we only had one child then. It’s famous for it’s spring break shenanigans and the military presence there, for their specialized dive training facilities. However, They also have great family friendly little alcoves tucked off of 30A.
This past year it was hit by Micheal in October. Homes were destroyed, business lost their signs, roofs, trees fell, schools were destroyed and there wasn’t much anyone could do. They have started to rebuild, but that has its challenges. Due to the shortage of livable conditions of property rentals and some smaller hotels, they have a worker shortage. This has impacted them greatly.
I chose to take the kids down there to visit their father, who is was finishing and advanced dive school in January. The long car ride from Virginia was about 14-ish hours. I don’t recommend it. I was happy to see that some of the town still stood! Witnessing the still present devastation myself, had me extremely curious about what I could do while I was down there.
I spoke to the locals, one particularly in depth about what it was like after the hurricane. She owned at a local shop in Carillon, and has been open since we lived there. Recalling some of the events was seemingly traumatic for her. Her family lost their home, and the kids had to be driven an hour in the morning to school. The aftermath of a natural disaster often impacts the lives of many, long after the danger is over. This surprising former Virginia Beach native, stood there telling her story about all of the years living in Florida and never seeing a disaster like this. The local economy has been hit hard. The restaurants have extremely long wait times due to off season and the worker shortage. The restaurants have been offering a sign on bonus of up to $1000 and $15 hr. due to the ripple effect of Micheal. The sweet store owner expressed to me that she, “Wished someone would come in and develop this town.” It’s needed and the town could use the help. Being part of the local culture she is seeing a shift in need for more diverse restaurants and worldly culture. As it now enters Panama Cities busy tourist season, I truly hope this is an opportunity for them to rebuild and revitalize.
Despite the somber vibe the town emanated, we were determined to relive some of the old days and show the kids where we started out! It was freezing cold being January, and the one day it was warm it rained the entire time. However, that didn’t stop us from having an adventure. All hail the blankets!! I teach my kids that when circumstances are not “ideal” and difficult, that a little bit of creative thinking can make their day better. We got a great chance to recreate an old family photo and add on some more to the memories!
If you would like to DONATE to help the families that are still affected by this, VISIT http://unitedwaynwfl.org