Escambia County

NorthEscambia: ‘Gov. Scott Should Look Tornado Victims In The Eye’

February 19, 2016

After seeing the devastation of tornado that hit the north Escambia County, Will Reynolds published this editorial on his website, NorthEscambia.com. We are republishing it with his permission.

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Our View: Gov. Scott Should Look Tornado Victims In The Eye

Governor Rick Scott was in Pensacola Wednesday, visiting with Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan to learn about the tornado damage in Century.

Really governor? You just can’t set foot in North Escambia? We are extremely disappointed and want to know where is the compassion in that?

We’ve been behind the scenes – in the command post and in the midst of the destruction since just minutes after the tornado hit. The Sheriff’s Office has done an excellent and commendable job in Century, so Sheriff Morgan was certainly qualified to relate information about the situation. We have nothing but praise for the hard working men and women of the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office and their response to the Century tornado. The Sheriff and his department are not any part of our issue.

Escambia County Administrator Jack Brown, Commissioner Steven Barry, Century Council President Ben Boutwell and very long list of county department heads and key personnel were in Century Wednesday afternoon and could have filled in you, as they did your EMA director that did visit. He took a 25 minute vehicle tour of the damage, but, strangely enough, never stepped outside the vehicle in the damaged area to speak to a single victim.

But to not set foot in Century was, in our view, inexcusable for the top leader of our state that was instead inside an office just 45 miles away. The “at a distance” meeting was nothing more than a slap in the face to those in their time of suffering.

Let us remind you, that according to 2008–2012 American Community Survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Century is the poorest town (over 1,000 population) in the entire state. Century is anything but a poster child for your “Let’s Get To Work” campaign. But this should not have been about politics, political parties or political ambitions.

This is about the elderly lady that lived near Jefferson Avenue. She worked hard, very hard, for 60-70 years for what she had until Monday’s tornado. She begged us Monday for information about her home, but we had been unable to reach it. On Tuesday, we climbed over downed trees, and power lines and fences to get pictures of her home. We found her later in the day helping her neighbors and were able to show her photos of her destroyed home. We held her as she cried.

This is about the Healthy Start office that was flooded due to roof damage. We stopped by and helped them pour water out of their computers. They don’t know how they are going to provide WIC services next week for the babies they serve.

This is about standing in the shadows of the Lord’s house…the historic Methodist Church moved from it’s foundation. This is about talking to church members and learning that the wooden building may be off its foundation, but the church — the people — remain firm in their foundation and praise for the Lord.

This is about walking the streets and seeing the magnitude of the destruction and understanding that pictures, or a briefing from officials is not the same. But you know that Governor, from your visit last month to see the Siesta Key tornado damage, like a roof ripped off a condo building by the EF-2 tornado. For those that don’t know, Siesta Key has an average family income four or five times that of Century.

It’s about the people in Century who don’t know what they will do without state and federal aid as they look at their homes in shambles, their belongings scattered everywhere. Many of them
honestly didn’t have much in this old world. But sometimes when have very little you treasure it more.

This is about the lady with no insurance on Pond Street who now has no home. Yes, she could have done the responsible thing and purchased insurance, but she chose to work the best job she could find and use the money on other things…like food for her children. Oh, and by the way Governor, her little kids are still looking for their beloved cat. He’s a grey tabby with “big and sad” eyes, and the kids are more worried about him than they are their home with no roof.

Those are just a few of the things you can learn walking through the destruction in Century.

Governor, Century is not just your state’s poorest little town. It’s a place full of people rich beyond belief in their love for their little town and each other. Perhaps you have to deny them assistance under existing state and federal regulations, but the least you could have done is stood with them and looked them in the eye.

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