Reflecting on My Time at Fort Myers Beach

Abigail Muth, Staff Writer

Fort Myers Beach was an island full of memories for many. It was a place for relaxation, family bonding and fun that may never be the same again. My husband lived there for a year and a half in a house that his family owns which I have spent a lot of time at. It was a very special place to me and my family and it’s hard to see the damage Hurricane Ian left behind.

Anyone who tried to access the island after Hurricane Ian knows that local law enforcement has made it difficult. This issue is hard to navigate, as many tourists and curious locals took advantage of an intact bridge, unlike Sanibel Island. As soon as Hurricane Ian calmed, many rushed to see the state of Fort Myers Beach which made local authorities realize there needed to be a way to hold residents accountable.

At first, they claimed to be checking local IDs only. This made it almost impossible for many to get to their homes as the island is a vacation home location for many. Unless you had an ID with Fort Myers Beach as your permanent address, you couldn’t see the state of your own property.

After a few weeks, they got more relaxed as many have hired individual contractors and workers who obviously wouldn’t have paperwork to show they live on the beach. In addition to this, there have been many volunteer services and local non-profits that want to help out in any way, even if they don’t have a firsthand reason to be there.

As electricity and water slowly came back to houses on the island, more and more people are needing to get back into town. This caused the local government to open the island to anyone five days a week. Mondays and Tuesdays were reserved for town-issued disaster response vehicles only. 

As of Oct. 31, the town has officially opened back up to seven days a week and Lee County Police have been notified to no longer restrict oncoming traffic to the island. 

Driving over the bridge onto the island is a sobering experience. The memories that this island held will forever be tainted for me after seeing the destruction that Hurricane Ian brought. Cars and homes were destroyed, the smell of dead fish and sand in the streets and the scene of personal belongings scattered throughout the island.      

Places that held some of my best memories may never be rebuilt because they simply don’t have the means to rebuild whole businesses.         

Many people called Fort Myers Beach their home and my heart goes out to those whose lives were completely destroyed. Just walking down the street brings tears to my eyes as I see looted establishments, families searching through debris to see if they can savor any of their heirlooms or family photos and workers towing cars and boats that have been totaled.        

The people of Fort Myers Beach and all of Southwest Florida have suffered a historical natural disaster that will never be forgotten. It will take years to rebuild some of our beautiful cities and still, they may never be the same.