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SWFL Organizations Host On-Campus Hurricane Ian Resilience Celebration

Tim Belizaire
Event attendees sat on library lawn to listen to the speakers.

Hurricane Ian made landfall on Sept. 28 of last year. A year later, community and university organizations wanted to not only honor everything that was lost, but look back on the resiliency of the Southwest Florida community. 

The Hurricane Ian resilience celebration took place on Sept. 28 from 10 a.m. to noon to commemorate the events of that day last year. 

Dr. Cindy Banyai, an adjunct professor in the Department of Political Science & Public Administration and Democratic candidate for FL House of Representatives District 19 in 2022, put the event together. 

Dr. Cindy Banyai introduced the sponsors of the event. (Tim Belizaire)

There were many sponsors for the event such as the Democratic Party of Lee County, the Florida Democratic Party, Big Mouth Media, the Democratic Caucus of Lee County, Citizens Climate Lobby and the Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida.

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“Some of you who are less political may be wondering, why is the Democratic party here? What does this have to do with all of this? The fact of the matter is, every single one of those decisions from top to bottom is political,” Banyai said. “Where we put homes, how big they are, how many homes are there, how they’re built? That’s all based on politics. And that is from your city council, your county commission legislation all the way up to the federal government. So if you really care about being safe for the next time around, making sure that you and your family have the right information to evacuate.

The event started out with a ceremonial lighting of an ice sculpture that represented the changes the environment faces when a hurricane hits. Sculpture Studio Student Assistant Haley Fox made this piece in the Bower School of Music & the Arts sculpture lab. 

“So when I look back at the hurricane, I think of that. I think of how strong we were in our time of need. How even though we were scared and unsure of what the future held, we got up and did the work that needed to be done,” Banyai said.

The FGCU Improv Club was also involved in the celebration, giving people the opportunity to share their Hurricane Ian stories on stage.

Dr. James Douglass, a professor in the Department of Marine and Earth Sciences, spoke about his hurricane experience.

“The economic reality kind of mashed right up into the environmental reality and it was just a really sad reality check. And I didn’t even have it as bad as FGCU students do, who I know are struggling,” Douglass said. “And so I scraped together all the spare coins that I could find and found an apartment to rent eventually but you know, I really had to take a downgrade in my lifestyle.” 

The whole event was also streamed live on Big Mouth Media, an online media source that Banyai founded.

The sponsors also encouraged everyone at the celebration to get involved in any way possible. 

“You have your voice. You have your body to march to, right? No one is without power. Every change that has happened on this globe, historically, has been the action of one person at a time,” Dr. Lin Wexley, member of the Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida, said. 

Jim Blue, Democratic candidate for FL House of Representatives District 76 was also in attendance. He spoke about his Hurricane Ian experience, as well as other hurricanes he’s lived through. 

Among the many speakers, Nikki Fried, chair of the Florida Democratic Party and 2022 Florida Governor candidate, seemed to be the main event. She arrived at the pavilion around 11:40 a.m..

Nikki Fried spoke about the resilience she saw in Southwest Florida after Hurricane Ian. (Tim Belizaire)

Fried emphasized the resiliency she saw in the Southwest Florida community. 

“Today is obviously a somber day to remember what happened a year ago where we saw a cat five turn and attack this community… and we also lost over 150 people in this community,” Fried said. “But when I came here last year and was able to speak to so many… people in this community… The one thing that I knew for sure is that this community is resilient. They’re going to fight back. They love this community and are going to do everything possible.”

The event was an opportunity for students, faculty and staff to share their Hurricane Ian experiences as well as learn what they can do to combat climate change in regard to hurricanes.

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About the Contributors
Tori Foltz
Tori Foltz, Executive Editor
Tori Foltz is a junior double majoring in political science and journalism with a concentration in public relations and a minor in interdisciplinary studies. She is from St. Petersburg, FL, and has always had a passion for writing. She has known she wanted to be a journalist since her first journalism class in her freshman year of high school. Her goal now is to be a political journalist. When she’s not writing in the newsroom or sending emails, you can find her spending her free time reading romance books, watching the Gilmore Girls, or hanging out with her friends.
Tim Belizaire
Tim Belizaire, Eagle News Assistant Photo Editor
Tim Belizaire is a junior majoring in journalism. He was born in Brooklyn, NY, and moved to Cape Coral when he was 12. His goal is to either venture into photojournalism or investigative journalism. Tim spends his free time taking pictures or listening to Lana Del Rey for hours.

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