• Monica Smit

Hurricane Michael's story WILL BE told!

Updated: Aug 5, 2019

I’m a 30-year-old female from Australia. I’ve been road-tripping North America for almost 1 year. Along the way, I’ve picked up a passion for journalism and videography. I was 6 hours in the wrong direction when my 'gut' told me to turn around and come to the Panhandle.

I first visited in November 2018, and again in May 2019. I’ve never lived through a disaster; Australia doesn’t have many wind-related disasters. We hear about disasters on tv and social media, but until we see it or experience for ourselves...we know nothing!

When I drove into town, my jaw dropped and stayed that way for an hour while I slowly drove through the neighbourhoods. It was like I teleported to another country…to another planet. Nothing could have prepared me for this vision. I've been to third world countries that look better than the aftermath of this Hurricane.

The first thing I did was go to a ‘tent-city’. It's exactly what it sounds like...a city made of tents. People there had lost their homes and jobs, and had no idea what their future looks like. Organisations and individuals helped feed and clothe them, but I could feel the hopelessness in the air. These people were low-income-earners who lived 'pay-check to pay-check', and had just lost their pay-check. This is what desperation looks like.

The next day, I went for a drive to Mexico Beach, which literally looked like a war-zone. I didn’t know wind could physically do this. Huge metal buildings torn in half, concrete pillars snapped, forests flattened, and the insides of people’s homes spread out for miles. No matter how descriptive my words are, you’ll never truly understand unless you saw it with your own eyes.

After 2 days of seeing and experiencing this devastation, I felt depressed. Everywhere I turned there was a reminder of God’s wrath. This isn't my town, this isn't my problem...I wanted to run away and pretend I hadn't seen anything. Luckily, I fought the overwhelming urge to run, because that day, I made contact with St Dominic’s Catholic Church in Springfield who were having a Thanksgiving lunch the next day. I decided to attend, and my depression turned into admiration.

I was now consciously looking for the positive aspect of this disaster, which was clear to see if you looked hard enough. People told me stories highlighting their strength and resilience. They shed happy tears telling me about the kindness of their neighbours and community. Humanity is amazing. We make a lot of mistakes in life, but when ‘push comes to shove’, humanity is capable of beautiful acts of kindness and compassion.

I met Mother-and-son teams who had travelled for days to come and help complete strangers. I met a 100-year-old woman who said she’d never experienced her community coming together like this. I met children who now seemed to understand the value of life and the importance of charity. I met people whose houses had been completely ruined saying things like, ‘oh well at least I get to re-paint the kitchen, I hated the colour’ or ‘it could have been worse’. Some people had to move 6 times in 6 months and weren’t complaining.

These people made me feel encouraged about humanity and I want to share that feeling with as many people as I can. Humanity isn’t all bad! In fact, I think most humans are good...the bad ones just get more attention. It’s sad that we’ve been programmed to respond to negative media. We can stop this habit by refusing to watch or take-on negativity, and instead only share or respond to positive stories. If only mainstream media looked a little harder to find the positive aspect of every story, we might actually enjoy watching the news again.

That’s why I’m here. I’m here to share your strength and positivity with the world.

I’m here to prove that in the midst of a huge disaster, there is plenty of goodness to be found.

I want people to be inspired by you, by your courage and perseverance. It changed me in a positive way, and I know I can pass that onto others by sharing your stories.

I realise that there are plenty of negative aspects of the Hurricane. People moved away, businesses and families lost everything, companies put their prices up and people who didn’t have insurance lost their whole lives…it’s hard to put a positive-spin on that. Perhaps the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ for them will come later. Often our worst nightmares end up being our biggest blessings, we just have to wait long enough for it to show.

Hurricane Michael doesn’t need to go down in history as the disaster that ruined the Panhandle, it can go down in history as the event that made the Panhandle even BETTER.

With my help, that's what I will share with the world through my documentary. I want to use Hurricane Michael as a metaphor for life...'life is full of metaphoric hurricanes. We can be drowned by their waves, or thrown by it's wind, but we must emerge victorious and stronger...like the victims of Hurricane Michael did'.

I want to use you, your community and your neighbourhoods as a beacon of light for others all over the world. I know I can use your stories to inspire people to live better lives and become stronger people. This disaster will not be a waste if we use it for good. When I'm finished telling your stories, the world will be in awe of your strength, as I am.

If you have a story to share or to keep up-to-date with my documentaries for the Hurricane, visit and subscribe to my website at www.monicasmit.com

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