The island shining before us

October 5, 2022

Beach sunset.

Almost twenty-five years ago, the woman I was seeing (and was crazy about) suggested we take a trip. Our destination was a place in Florida she knew well, since she grew up in Alabama and had been to the Sunshine State many times.

We flew down from Washington DC, where we lived then, landed after dark, and took off in our rental car down a long, seemingly isolated road. I couldn’t see much and wondered where we were headed. Pretty soon I had an answer: paradise.

She’d rented us an Old Florida cabin with a tin roof and a screened porch. We woke up to a dazzling morning, the sun rippling over the Gulf of Mexico with miles of beaches to walk on. We picked up a few of the shells the area was famous for, ate lots of fresh local seafood, relaxed and generally had a magical time on our first vacation as a couple.

I’d never seen this side of Florida since I came from Michigan (and was neither a spring breaker nor a snowbird), but after the trip we both wanted more. We bought a place on the Panhandle that became a second home and where we spent some of the best days of our life together. However, our first visit, the one that started it all, was to Sanibel and Captiva, the barrier islands off Fort Myers. You’ve surely seen pictures of the devastation Hurricane Ian caused. They’re still trying to get the survivors out.

This feels like a loss even though we haven’t been back to Sanibel in years. As I grow older, my memories get smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror, and the island is one more piece of a past I won’t see again. We no longer have our house up the coast either; we sold it after a close call with Hurricane Michael, a monster that would have wiped us out had it landed 20 miles farther west.

If we don’t address climate change fast, there won’t be any paradise left on Earth. And if you’d like to help the people whose homes and lives have been wrecked, “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” put together this list of organizations that are providing relief.

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David Swan

Writer, editor, ex-journalist, all-around communicator. Comfortable in real and fictional worlds. Always on the lookout for a great story.