Our View: The Sounds Of Front Street

February 28, 2016

Early Saturday morning was sunny and remarkably quiet on Front Street in Century.  For a few moments, it was closer to a normal morning than it had been in the past couple of weeks.  It was so quiet that you could hear the birds chirping happily in the remaining trees.

As the storms came and brought a hellish roar many times that of massive freight train on February 15, Front Street was been anything but quiet.  Winds estimated up to 152 mph toppled trees, picked up and moved houses, flattened homes and destroyed dreams…no, destroyed life as Front Street knew it.

It was one of the poorest streets in the poorest town in the state — an estimated annual household income as low as $7,000. But the outpouring of support, the sounds of progress, have been rich.

Since the tornado, it had been a cycle of sorts of sounds on Front Street. The sirens, the first responders going house to house looking for survivors the first night and the first morning after the EF-3. The Tuesday after the storm, the sounds of Front Street, ground zero, were not normal. Most residents were gone; the area was secured and locked down by the Sheriff’s Office.  As the day progressed, there was the sound of more and more chainsaws and bucket trucks as a small army of utility workers labored to clear downed lines and restore power, TV and phone lines.

By Wednesday afternoon after the tornado, the busy laborious sounds were replaced by the noise of a steady stream of vehicles as the roadblocks were lifted. Neighbors checked on one another. And, under the sounds of the chainsaws, were the quiet sounds of the tears over what was no more.

Since the storm, the sounds of Front Street continued to be those of chainsaws, Bobcat loaders, and dump trucks. TV reporters, building inspectors, tarps hammered into place, and volunteers swarming.  Those volunteers calling out, offering food, water, supplies and a helping hand.

Last Wednesday, the sounds paused for a moment, replaced by the hustle and bustle that surrounded the visit of the governor to Front Street. And the sounds of murmurs about how perhaps he should have visited a week earlier. As the dark SUV’s pulled away, the chainsaws roared again.

The sounds of tin and metal and wood and tree limbs being pushed to the roadside. The sounds of the grapple trucks picking up what remained of a home and dropping it into a dumpster. More chainsaws, more heavy equipment. More engines roaring. Those have been the sounds of Front Street.

But on Saturday morning, Front Street slept in a little late. Most of the debris piles were gone from the roadside, most of the temporary repairs were done.

But Front Street had a quiet call, a call for help with what comes next. How will it be restored? How will the homes be rebuilt? What happens to those still sleeping without walls, without a roof, without electricity and without running water? The sounds of the pages of Front Street’s 100-plus year history turning to the next major chapter.

Front Street has heard the sounds of cleanup, of volunteers and the first part of recovery. But for now, Front Street listens for the next sounds of recovery — the financial help from the government that so far has not arrived. Those sounds were first quiet on our cool Saturday morning visit. Then a mockingbird began to sing, followed by another a few houses down, followed by the repeated pulls needed to crank a tired old chainsaw.

It was the sounds of Front Street waking up to the new normal; the sounds of Front Street crying out for help from anyone that will listen.

Pictured top: A quiet Front Street in Century Saturday morning, February 26.  Pictured below: Front Street during a post-tornado lockdown on Tuesday morning, February 16. NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.


3 Responses to “Our View: The Sounds Of Front Street”

  1. No pity on February 28th, 2016 9:05 pm

    Thank you Cynthia. I have lived in this (so called poor town all my life) and to be honest I know of no better place in the world to live than Century. We have neighbors that we loved and will do anything for each other. I will say this not everyone that lives on this street is living below poverty level. There are elderly people who like the quiet and friendly neighborhood. A brick house and a Lincoln or Cadillac in the driveway doesn’t make you rich. Rich is when you can call to your neighbor and say could you help me and they stop whatever they are doing and come lend you a hand. No child or person has better memories than we do growing up in this small town community. If you are feeling pity because we lost everything we had worked for…we don’t need it. If you feel bad because we are heart broken over having our memories shattered never to be the same again then thank you.

  2. The DOER on February 28th, 2016 8:54 am

    This is a beautiful tribute to what was and maybe what will be. I don’t know what the solution is to this situation. I, too, drove down Saturday, and I have been helping some in the clean up efforts. This area does indeed look like a war field.

    I know that each of us is supposed to be responsible for ourselves. We are supposed to think ahead. This means life insurance for burial, medical insurance for medical needs, dental insurance for dental coverage, etc. Alas, if you own your own home, you need to anticipate bad things happening and get home owners insurance. It’s called being responsible. Having said that, some of these people are so poor, that insurance is completely foreign to them. I know we make our choices in life. We must prepare children young to make a living later, etc., but the majority of these people are poor and elderly. Don’t get me wrong: some are young and able-bodied, but for whatever reason, they have made poor choices and have no jobs, etc. Many of our poor continue to have children they cannot afford, still expecting others to take care of them. I do not have the answer. We need to be teaching more about consequences for actions than common core!

    Meanwhile, the downtown area of Century and the poor and needy are indeed homeless. My heart breaks for the immediate here and now for them, but also for a feeling of hopelessness if this cycle of dependency (not just in this area but throughout our country) is not broken.

  3. Cynthia on February 28th, 2016 7:40 am

    Very well written….this is the street…I was raised on….My Daddy passed in his home on this street. My Mama will return once repairs are made. Her neighbors not as lucky. My heart breaks every time that I go on Front street. You never get used to it! Seeing neighbors walk away from all those sweet memories…..that are now just that only a memory. Pray for these people that have lost all! My husband has done 4 tours and he described it as a war zone! But yet these people nor their homes don’t seem to matter to the powers that be! Their feelings don’t seem to matter because they don’t live in a home with an Ocean view!

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