Getting hit by a hurricane once is bad luck.
But getting hit twice by a hurricane is tragic.
And unfortunately, tragedy is the reality 69-year-old Mirella Jimenez is living with after Hurricane Ian swept through her North Fort Myers community.
“It’s very sad,” Jimenez said through tears. “It’s very sad because I am sick as it is. Coming back from this won’t be easy.”
Jimenez lives in the 55+ retirement mobile home community of Windmill Village.
She evacuated to Hollywood, Florida, with her daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend before the storm. After living through the horrors of Hurricane Irma in 2017, she didn’t want to take any chances.
But on Sept. 28, the Category 4 storm swept through her neighborhood, tearing away the roof and walls of her bedroom and destroying the roof of the rest of her home.
“I never thought this would happen to me again,” she admitted.
When she and her family saw pictures of her home, they were shocked.
“This is the second time it’s happened, and they had a lot of trauma going through that and they really feel it,” said Michael Chaplar, who is Jimenez’s daughter’s boyfriend.
The Cuban immigrant is now forced to live with no roof, no walls and shattered windows. Living in low-income conditions will make her road to recovery even more difficult.
“Everyone always says that you can replace material things, but material things don’t fall from the sky. If someone doesn’t have money, they can’t replace it. And, of course, we are in a period of time where everyone knows that the economy is bad,” Jimenez said.
Chaplar says getting government assistance will be critical to get Jimenez back on her feet.
“She needs that money to help her rebuild and salvage what she can and start over,” Chaplar said.
Chaplar said Jimenez filled out the form for government aid. Now, it’s a waiting game. In the meantime, she has no choice but to continue moving forward, focusing on what she has and not what she has lost.
“Now it’s just really a race against time to gather as many things as possible and get them to some place where the rain’s not going to damage it. It’s South Florida, it’s going to start raining again,” Chaplar said.
But in the midst of damage, destruction and deja vu, Jimenez is simply thankful to be alive.
“We just have to get back up again…that’s all,” Jimenez said with a smile and laughter.
She is also thankful that her mom and sister are alive. They live just down the road in the same neighborhood. Their house was left almost untouched by Hurricane Ian.
“I prefer that this happened to me and not my mother.
Jimenez attributes this miracle to God. It’s her faith that has kept her going through these difficult moments she has endured one too many times in her lifetime.
“I always say there are tests that each person has to go through in life, and I have a lot of faith that God will help me through,” Jimenez said.
It’s this positive attitude and sense of gratitude that will get Jimenez through this storm.
“There’s no easy way through it. You just got to, piece by piece. That’s all,” Chaplar said.
Jimenez is just one of the many Southwest Florida residents who will have to put their lives back together piece by piece. Many people lost everything in the storm, including their homes, livelihoods and even loved ones. The death toll of the storm is currently over 100 people as search and rescue efforts are still ongoing.
Experts say the storm caused $47 billion worth of damages, making it one of the costliest storms in the state’s history.