At Marathon, which was on the other side of the hurricane's eye, the wind came from the bay side. This made a lot of difference to Key Colony Beach, a multimillion-dollar development facing the ocean. E. P. Sadowski, the developer, greeted us so cheerfully that, by contrast with less fortunate resort owners, he almost seemed jubilant. His area had no wave damage at all, although the wind tore roofs off buildings, knocked down walls and did other damage. But no water was involved, so his insurance claims were not disputed.
Scores of workmen were putting back roofs and rebuilding interiors. Sadowski has settled on a Hawaiian motif, which will feature a huge golden goddess with smoke coming out of her eyes. "The Hawaiian motif is very popular these days," Sadowski said. The entire resort, including restaurant, convention hall, golf course and beach will be ready by December 15.
At Hall's Camp in Marathon, the picture was not as rosy. There Gene and Betty Florimont admitted they were having trouble with the insurance adjusters, and the rate at which they could rebuild would be determined by the settlement. They were going ahead with dock repairs because docks are not insurable. Their cottages, which had been shoved into odd positions, would have to wait.
"We're coming back the hard way but we're coming back," Mrs. Florimont said. She was happy to add that they had saved their pet pelican. They took him with them up to Miami to escape the storm, and then flew him back home in an air taxi.
Near by, at the Davis Docks, a place with 42 cottages and three-quarters of a mile of dock space utilized by charter boats and visiting yachts, contracts were just being let to rebuild the docks. Mrs. Iva Storm Davis, the spry, elderly owner, said the docks would be finished in six weeks. "That dock there, believe it or not," she said, pointing, "went through my cocktail bar."
Beyond Marathon the Keys began to take on their normal appearance. The mangroves were in full leaf, there were no piles of debris and only an occasional toppled tree. The city of Key West, at the end of the 108-mile string of islands, was on the perimeter of the storm and escaped with minor damage. The big problem there was a water shortage. A pipe line carries fresh water down the length of the Keys, and it was washed out in many places. Repairs were made swiftly, however, and Key West was able to come to the aid of the stricken middle Keys. Visitors this winter will find the famous old city looking about as usual.
A piano teacher's loss
Reconstruction of tourist and travel facilities is only one aspect of the recovery problem facing the people of the Keys. The rebuilding of private homes will be a slower process. Many houses were destroyed, and their former occupants are living in a makeshift fashion with friends or in trailers set up beside the ruins. One piano teacher lost 80% of her pupils because their pianos washed away.
Only preliminary surveys have been made to determine the effect of the hurricane on wildlife. At the Cowpens Keys, the small islands in Florida Bay where normally some 75 pairs of roseate spoonbills nest during the winter, only 32 birds have returned so far. A hasty check of the Everglades National Park indicated that 40% of the great white herons were missing from the park area.
The hurricane winds were so strong that they blew the leaves off the trees. For a couple of weeks after Donna passed, only bare, brown limbs rose above the scene, giving it an even more dismal air. But now, bright, young leaves are sprouting fast, and as they do the hope of the people continues to rise. The trees are green again, the sky has the deep blue of the tropics, and the calm waters reach out from the Keys in all shades of aquamarine. There are 764 kinds of fish to be caught in those waters, and where you have fish and boats you will have fishermen. Soon they will be rolling down the Overseas Highway by the thousands, and when they come the Keys will be ready for them.