Piles of debris line a street in Marathon, Fla., after Hurricane Irma. Photo courtesy of American Legion Post 154.

Marathon post helps community during, after Irma

While Hurricane Irma’s immediate impact — destroyed homes, many residents still without electricity almost two weeks after the storm — is evident, John Dick expects the long-term effect on Marathon, Fla., and other parts of the Keys will be drastic.

“I think the community is going to get changed drastically,” said Dick, the commander of American Legion Post 154 in Marathon as well as chairman of the Monroe County School Board.

He’s seen the damage; resorts destroyed by Irma, homes decimated. “All the people who work in those places, they’re going to have to leave, there’s no jobs. And we had a housing shortage already, it’s going to get worse. It’s going to be tough down in the Keys.

“I’m concerned with how many kids we’ll lose, how many teachers we’ll lose,” he added. Schools in Marathon were finally reopening Wednesday, while it could be next week before that happens in Big Pine Key, at the other end of Seven Mile Bridge.

Nevertheless, Dick is optimistic as well. “In the end, we’ll be fine.”

Post 154 itself bore up well at the brunt of the storm, although Dick said “we had about a foot and a half of water in the place.” But the post also had a generator, safely secured during the storm itself so that it was ready to go once Irma moved on.

“When the electricity went out — it was maybe out for a week or so — I took a lot of food from the freezer at the school because it was going to go bad (with the power out there),” he said. “We were cooking that, providing lots of meals to the National Guard, the first responders, anyone that walked in. … People in the community know the Legion will be up and running as soon as possible.”

Dick said some post members are still waiting for electricity to come on at their homes. Others, including Dick himself, are dealing with damage at their homes.

But “I can be in my house, I just don’t have A/C because that got blown away,” he said.

He’s grateful for the outpouring of support and supplies. On Post 154’s Facebook page, there’s mention of trucks from Post 42 in Maine, and the Tunnel to Towers Foundation from Staten Island, N.Y. There’s also thanks to the volunteers who have helped unload all those supplies.

“The help is big time,” Dick said.