In God We Trust. That’s the motto of my home state. In 1868, the Florida legislature adopted this motto. Namely, because they thought it sounded better than “Florida—most of us are Realtors®.”
Our state motto was so good that Eisenhower signed a bill to make it the national motto in 1956. Congress voted. It was unanimous.
This is just one more clear example of how everyone wants to be Florida.
I am a Floridian. My family lives in Florida. My people are Floridians. My former Sunday school teachers. My in-laws. My exes. I grew up with hurricanes.
During the feckless summers of my youth, hurricane season ran from June until the following June. And that was life. You didn’t like it. But you tolerated it because you didn’t know anything else.
When the newspaper announced a hurricane in the Gulf, you would watch TV incessantly. You’d stay up until the wee hours, waiting for updates, watching endless commercials wherein grumpy old men in supermarkets warned you not to squeeze the Charmin.
There were no smartphones or fancy weather websites back then. You just had a radio and a TV.
In the Western Panhandle, our television news came from either Mobile, Pensacola, or Panama City. And our newscasters wore so much hairspray they could deflect small caliber ammunition.
These newspersons were from the old school of broadcasting, which meant that they were pretty sedate and matter-of-fact. There was no anxiety among news anchors like there is today. All the meteorologists were calm men who wore coats and ties and looked like your father’s dentist.
The whole town came together during hurricane preparations. You’d go into Ace Hardware to buy plywood, and all the old men were sipping coffee from foam cups, talking about it. Most of us felt a slight thrill coursing through our arteries.
You’d help your neighbors put up storm shutters. You’d bring in Miss Betty’s potted plants. You’d place all your mama’s lawn furniture into the garage.
Most people on my street drank beer during hurricanes. Even the Baptists drank beer because beer went better with unfiltered Camels.
My friend’s mom locked her whole family in a small closet and made everyone wear Little League batting helmets for storms.
I have another friend who, to this day, still sleeps in a canoe in the garage during a hurricane, just in case the storm surge gets bad.
I’ve had multiple relatives interviewed on the Weather Channel. They were all selected at random inside filling stations by Jim Cantore or Stephanie Abrams.
Weathermen usually selected my people solely because of our accents and poor dental plans.
I have seen destruction from hurricanes more times than I can count. All my people have. Andrew. Opal. Charley.
Ivan almost killed us. Dennis sucked pieces of our coastline into outer space. Wilma. Irma. And Michael. Oh, Michael.
Michael made landfall 33 miles west of my front porch, and killed friends of mine.
But now I live in another state. I am far away from my family. In a mountain region. Another world.
I still, however, watch the news with that familiar anxiety in my gut. I am constantly texting my mother and sister and family members, asking how they’re doing. Their responses usually come within milliseconds, because everyone is slightly on edge.
Currently, Hurricane Ian isn’t heading for my hometown, but landing extremely east of it, tracking up Florida’s mainland. But this does nothing to relieve me.
I can’t be glad about where the storm is going. Because I am a Floridian, and so are my brothers and sisters. If my hometown doesn’t get creamed, theirs does. We’re all in this together.
So tonight I can only pray for my brothers and sisters in Hurricane Ian’s path.
I can only watch television and listen to adrenaline-fueled newscasters milk the storm coverage for all its worth. I can only watch meteorologists chew the same cud for hours and wonder how much money they make selling commercial ads.
This must be like Super Bowl Sunday for them.
The TV shows footage of Disney World, with people leaving the park in a mild frenzy, just before the gates close. Sea World is a ghost town. Legoland, Universal, Busch Gardens: all empty.
On my screen is a newsman, standing on a beach, wearing a rain slicker, announcing that the storm surge from Bonita Beach to Charlotte Harbor is expected to be nearly 18 feet.
People have died in three feet.
As I write this, a meteorologist tells viewers that this storm is approaching Category 5 status. The highest hurricane status known to man, with winds exceeding 150 mph. Strong enough to knock down skyscrapers.
And all I can do is say a prayer.
Tonight, I sit far away from the Sunshine State, praying for some kind of divine mercy upon my Floridian kith and kin. For leniency from On High. Supernatural forbearance. For Grace from heaven itself.
I love you, Florida. May the Almighty shed his grace on thee.
In God We Trust.
PMc - September 29, 2022 7:20 am
I’m praying for Mercy too. I have family and friends in Ian’s path and so far we are hearing everyone is safe. I lived in “Hurricane Alley” for a short time…a very short time!
Peace and Love to all Floridians from Birmingham🙏♥️
Ed (Bear) - September 29, 2022 8:24 am
Amen Sean, Amen… when one suffers we all suffer. In God we trust.
Patricia Parrish-Lewis - September 29, 2022 8:39 am
flkatmom - September 29, 2022 8:42 am
Amen Sean, sending love and prayers out from Orlando for you & all of our Florida brothers & sisters throughout this great state!
Debbie - September 29, 2022 8:52 am
Lamentations 3: 21-23
“But this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
Lauree - September 29, 2022 12:14 pm
Donna Wallerstein - September 29, 2022 8:54 am
As a Former Floridian that weathered through Jean, Francis, Wilma, Andrew, and countless others, I still harbor at minimum, 3 cases of water and a freezer that could feed a small army, even though I no longer live in an area that has any effects from hurricanes (Austin, TX). I am curious if you do the same? I wonder if it’s a product of shell shock or just we know what could happen if we don’t stay prepared for anything.
Janie F. - September 29, 2022 8:59 am
We are in Central Fl between Legoland & Disney World. I spent a lot of yesterday on the back screened in porch of my aunt & uncle’s house watching the trees dance and listening to the wind gusts. It was scary & fascinatingly beautiful at the same time. It’s now 5am & the wind is still whipping bad. We hope our 1984 double wide has held up through the storm. Whatever happens to our home we are grateful to have a safe place to ride out the storm. God is with us.
Ann - September 29, 2022 9:17 am
Thank you…we need every bit of help…And prayers
Lucretia - September 29, 2022 9:25 am
In God we trust and find our hope now and for all eternity.
Te - September 29, 2022 10:24 am
Earth is a violent planet. The weather would discourage any alien visitor because they would not believe anything could survive our weather. Yet we do, and it joins us with compassion and determination and makes politics moot. Survival makes most conflicts moot. Because there’s one thing about Americans. When it counts, we come together to help. God bless America and shield Florida.
Valerie Benton - September 29, 2022 10:46 am
Melanie Bontrager - September 29, 2022 10:49 am
I have only recently stumbled upon your writings but I love your honesty, grit and humor. I live on a quiet, little lake in rural Polk county Florida. We had a flee our 100 year old home and I am anxiously awaiting daylight to make my return. Thank you for your writing and most importantly your prayers.
Rebecca McArthur Lee - September 29, 2022 10:57 am
Downgraded, but waiting for TS Ian to go by here on the Space Coat in Titusville near zkennedy Space Center. No power, but generator cranking. God bless all. Hey, rain is wer, hahaha.Thank you for writing this and sending your support. I love reading your stories. You are blessed in so many ways.
Debbie Boyd - September 29, 2022 10:59 am
Love this! Florida has MY heart too, although I am a native Mississippian. My heart hurts too.
Diana - September 29, 2022 11:08 am
Thank you for the thoughts and prayers. Currently, sitting without power, but thankful for the roof over my head. Still waiting for checkins from family and friends further south than I am. Prayers for all.
Julie Hall - September 29, 2022 11:27 am
Prayers for Florida and prayers for you!
Ellen C. - September 29, 2022 11:33 am
Sean, we are all praying along with you, for our family ,friends and all in the path of this horrendous storm,
Pondcrane - September 29, 2022 11:36 am
Florida Loves You, Sean and so do I
Ruth - September 29, 2022 12:13 pm
Always so many thoughtful comments that I love to read. Especially loved Ed(bear) and Debbie. Praying for those in harms way.
Alice Cunningham - September 29, 2022 12:20 pm
I have never lived in Florida, a beautiful place to visit, but prayers continue especially for grandsons with multiple dogs in animal shelter.
Sean of the South: Hurricane Ian | The Trussville Tribune - September 29, 2022 12:26 pm
[…] By Sean Dietrich, Sean of the South […]
Carol Jones - September 29, 2022 12:41 pm
Like this! Thankful in Milton.
Trent - September 29, 2022 12:45 pm
Seaner – you’ve always seemed like a Seaner to me. We are truly brothers from another mother. I went back Monday to retrieve my 85 year old mom from my 3rd generation St. Pete and bring her back to Southeast AL – as we too are transplanted escapees to this wonderful state we now call home. Our FL families over time have seen ‘em all. My “Pop” (momma’s daddy) sure had some stories about all dem “herikins”. In short, your prose painted the picture so eloquently and thoroughly, (comma just for you) and as always hit many a soft spot. How we watched Roy Leap and Dick Fletcher (meteorological legends) for hours upon hours! But mostly you captured the true Florida spirit of brotherhood and togetherness – at least from us crackers during a blow. We never pray the storms don’t hit us per se – rather that the Lord spare the land and His people as much as possible in His Grace. We wouldn’t wish a direct hit on our worst enemy either. Please never stop observing and writing and inspiring.
Melanie - September 29, 2022 11:00 pm
Well said, Trent!
Chasity Davis Ritter - September 29, 2022 12:52 pm
Praying in Oklahoma too. We don’t have that much warning when a Twister is coming but we understand those winds. Praying for your family and friends. Praying for our fellow Americans and the fury of Mother Nature to chill out and not beat the crap outta Florida. We’re Praying 🙏
Melanie Johnston Levy, LPC - September 29, 2022 1:05 pm
Thank you, Sean.
Jan Walker - September 29, 2022 1:12 pm
Thank you for praying Sean. We love you and Jamie. God is faithful. We made it through the night here and we’re so thankful. We are continuing to pray for our family, neighbors and friends, and for all who have been touched by the devastation and trauma. The storm will exit our state today and we pray it keeps drifting to the east and will not make landfall again. Blessings to all.
Anne Godwin - September 29, 2022 1:21 pm
Amen! My prayer is always that the hurricane dissipates.
“ All the meteorologists were calm men who wore coats and ties and looked like your father’s dentist.” And now, they’re not. I watch the weather channel on mute.
Keep on writing. It’s good for your soul. And ours.
Your older sister in Mobile.
sonyatuttle6762 - September 29, 2022 1:43 pm
We used to live in the Panhandle too, but have move to north Mississippi. We fear for our family and friends too, but TRUST is what we do.
Dorotha Coltrane - September 29, 2022 2:20 pm
I agree about the dramatic coverage with otherwise professional and sane journalists barely keeping their balance in 75 mph winds. Do we really need to be this up close and personal with hurricanes? But there I was, watching the evening news.
Joe - September 29, 2022 2:26 pm
Patricia Gibson - September 29, 2022 2:34 pm
Praying for Floridians as well🙏❤️
Lori Klein - September 29, 2022 3:09 pm
Amen. It’s safer to watch these thing from afar, but it isn’t easier. May God protect them all.
Bonnie Sanders Bartlett - September 29, 2022 3:10 pm
Prayers lifted 🙏🙏🙏
Mary - September 29, 2022 3:43 pm
Prayers and Amens to all affected up and down the Eastern seaboard.
virginia westlake - September 29, 2022 4:05 pm
I grew up in Houston, so I know hurricanes. When our daughter was 18 months and I was expecting my son, we were in hurricane Celia in Corpus Christi. When I saw Christmas ornaments in the front yard (from attic), I knew we were in trouble. We lost our home, but survived. Your priorities can change very quickly!
Love your writing and the first part about In God We Trust was great!
Jean Scott - September 29, 2022 4:07 pm
This is a great story today. Living in Indian Rocks Beach Fl. Near Tampa we were waiting for Ian. Paradise is wonderful but it does have its drawbacks. Thanks for your stories I love them all!
Kathy - September 29, 2022 4:09 pm
I am the same. I grew up in the panhandle of Florida (sounds like not far from you) but now live far away. I watch and I listen and check in with family and friends that are still there. My friends here all check in with me and ask if my family is ok. I tell them, “yes, this time they are. The storm is 7+ hours away.” Your story today captured how I feel to a “t” . It is a strange thing to be filled with relief (it didn’t hit home!) and grief (for the homes Ian did hit) all at the same time. Florida is near and dear to my heart and always in my prayers. Thank you for what you wrote today.
MaryBeth Patten - September 29, 2022 4:50 pm
I am right there with you, Sean. I lived in Florida for 35 years, married, had my children there, divorced, and moved away. I was in South Florida during Andrew and will never forget the horror of watching a monster hurricane on radar approaching my home. I still have family in Florida and, although they’re on the east coast, I watched the storm on television yesterday, unable to detach from the fear of impending disaster in a state I called home for so long. A part of me will be a Floridian forever.
Mary - September 29, 2022 4:58 pm
Thank you, Sean! As a kid who grew up in Florida and lived there for quite a few years as an adult, I love Florida! What has happened there weather wise and even almost sadder, politically, makes me weep! “In God We Trust”! I did not know the history! Thank You for sharing this history! It gives me great hope and pride to be a Floridian!
LIN ARNOLD - September 29, 2022 5:44 pm
I have several good friends that live in Florida and are in Ian’s path. I offered to put any or all of them up for the duration of the storm up here in North Georgia, but they all said, “Nope, I got this taken care of. I just hope the power doesn’t stay off for too long.” And I’ve already heard back from most of them that they’re all good! One even commented that her power was only off for 4 hours! God was watching over us all. Thank you, Lord!
Ana Dudley - September 29, 2022 5:45 pm
Thank you for your prayers. They are very much needed. We love Florida!
David S Doom - September 29, 2022 5:48 pm
Many prayers are being said for Flordia all over the world.
Joyce Owens Byrd - September 29, 2022 5:53 pm
I understand you!! Grew up on the gulf coast of Louisiana and I have family there. They made it through the eye of Andrew. Live in Houston now and made it through Harvey. It is never easy. You sigh with relief when the hurricane goes another direct, but you know it’s going to hurt someone else and you pray!!!
Martha - September 29, 2022 6:15 pm
I too am a lifelong Floridian. I live on the far northeast corner of the state. Just across the river from Georgia. So far just a lot of wind and rainfor us. But south was hit hard. We appreciate your prayers.
MAM - September 29, 2022 7:17 pm
As a native Texan and missing my state, I, too, lived in hurricane country, and watched the palm fronds bend in the wind. They rarely fell, except for one year, when palms fell on both ends of our driveway, so my Dad couldn’t come rescue my mom and me from Girl Scout Camp, where Mom was a leader, until he cut them up. Fortunately, friends who had a daughter at the camp took us home.
Barbara Farr - September 29, 2022 9:51 pm
I am from Florida and my day has been like your day. My daughter and her children are in Florida. An hour past Tampa. They all left. My daughter and granddaughter went to West Palm Beach. Her oldest son went to stay at his best friend’s house in Orlando. Her youngest son is with his Dad in Parrish, FL. All safe and sound. My sister-in-law and family are fine. A sigh of relief! God has been good to my family.
But as I look out my window I see the trees waving in the wind. Yes, Ian will be here in Aiken, SC tomorrow with wind gusts up to 60 mph. And God will be here too. Meanwhile, my brother is with you in Birmingham.
Billie - September 29, 2022 10:41 pm
When it gets right down to it, Sean, you are still a Floridian! My heart tells me so!!!
Melanie - September 29, 2022 10:58 pm
This is great!
I love your writing.
Suzanne Brantley - September 29, 2022 11:54 pm
Sean, this is fabulous!!!! I love my Florida and when a hurricane hits any part it hurts.
Steve McCaleb - September 30, 2022 12:01 am
I can commiserate with the ingestion of alcoholic beverages on your old block. I’m like a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs and I’m 300 miles away. God’s mercy and benevolent grace upon the people of the Sunshine State and all those to the north in the path of this monster.
Meredith O’Connor - September 30, 2022 12:28 am
I have only recently been introduced to your work via a show you did at a popular motor speedway south of Atlanta. Appropriate setting. Guitar, books, dog, goody bags and good folk enjoying each other’s company, while listening to your musings and music. Now I have signed up for your daily email and I feel complete. All I can think of to say is, thank you and…
Judy Riley - October 2, 2022 1:11 am
AMEN SEAN, AMEN! (Iam in Jackson County and a survivor of Michael!)