Neighborhood comes together amidst Hurricane Ian


Courtesy of Cayman Compess

After the storm passed, people came out of their homes to see their entire neighborhood in ruins. Roof shingles ripped off houses, power lines down, and pool cages swept away, leaving people with a feeling of hopelessness after seeing their lives vanish before their eyes. Others, however, see this as an opportunity to give back to those in their community.

One of these good samaritans is Gabriel Rodriguez. Rodriguez has been living in Cape Coral for 16 years, ever since he emigrated from Puerto Rico. 

His first major hurricane, Rodriguez recalled his terror while waiting out Hurricane Ian, “It was pretty different. It was a very strong hurricane, nothing that I have seen before,” said Rodriguez. “Even with Puerto Rico’s experience, it definitely sent it to the top one.”

Just down the street from Rodriguez is the McMahon residence, where Bill McMahon also recalled waiting out the near category five storm. “The shutters started coming off the back of the house, and me and my son were out there in the rain trying to hold the shutters down so we didn’t get more damage to our house,” McMahon explained.

Wife of McMahon, Andrea McMahon, remembered what the hurricane sounded like as it passed by. “It was so scary. It sounded like little kids running around on the roof,” Andrea said.

According to McMahon, Ian wasn’t the only thing that passed through their neighborhood that evening. “A tornado hit during the middle of the hurricane, it sounded like a freight train,” McMahon stated. “You could feel the roof lifting off. The windows and the doors were blowing in and out. It was actually terrifying.”

Rodriguez also witnessed the vicious whirlwind terrorizing their homes. “I just remember debris flying everywhere,” Rodriguez stated. “The roofs were being torn off and especially off my house- the pool cage went away.”

Andrea explained how the storm not only traumatized herself and her husband, but also her daughter. “My daughter was in here, scared, because she kept looking down on her phone, and she said, ‘We’re in the eye. We’re in the eye. We’re still in the eye.’ She said that she lost all communication and I was like, ‘That’s not going to be good,’” said Andrea.

Once the worst had passed, Rodriguez felt it was his moral duty to assist his neighbors who were once strangers to him. “I’m a Christian guy, and do what I got to do to help,” Rodriguez stated. “Help your neighbor out and provide and bless y’all.”

McMahon also believed that he had to help his devastated community. “People are supposed to help people. I was a cop for 20 years in New York, and you’re supposed to help people,” said McMahon.

His wife agreed, “It was just who we are. You want people to be there for you. You don’t want people to be alone and not have anyone that’s going to help them or look out for them. Make sure they’re okay. It’s not a big deal to help out.”

The McMahons led by example, letting their neighbors draw water from their pool and giving access to their water well once power was restored. 

Rodriguez hosted a BBQ for neighbors who needed extra food. Andrea remembers seeing Rodriguez cooking for everyone. “ I noticed they were barbecuing down the block. I thought that was really cool,” Andrea said.

Even after their heroic actions, Andrea doesn’t believe her family deserves a spotlight. “I don’t feel like we’re a hero. I feel like we were just trying to help people and everyone’s going through the same thing. As long as we’re alive and okay, that’s all that matters,” Andrea explained.

Rodriguez agreed, stating that it is something that everyone should do. “I don’t feel like calling myself a hero. Something that everyone should be doing and helping each other,” said Rodriguez.

He also said it is a hard process to recoup and get back on track mentally. “You have to gather your thoughts and then regroup and start doing it all over again.”

Andrea believes that Ian has brought her family even closer than before. “It just made the family closer,” Andrea stated. “Unfortunately, my husband has to help out a lot more now in the house and get stuff done when I wasn’t here, but I think the hurricane made the whole family closer because now we all watch out for each other and watch out for everyone.”

Even after all the terror and devastation, McMahon explained how it allowed him to see the good in people around him. “It just shows that I have really good neighbors and that I wouldn’t want to move elsewhere,” said McMahon.