This week’s Our City comes to you from behind a rampart of hurricane supplies and anxieties. By the time this publishes Sunday afternoon, Orlando and the state of Florida will be dealing with the creeping destructive forces of Hurricane Irma as it moves up the peninsula. There is a special kind of anxiety attached to the feeling you have when you see the pictures of a massive storm geographically superimposed over the place where you call home. When predictive forecasts put everything you know and most of the people you love in the path of such pernicious forces.
Those anxieties aren’t mine alone, as Floridians across the state make preparations to ride out the storm. Yesterday, Orlando City posted a tweet to remind fans that the stadium isn’t an approved hurricane shelter.
I’ll admit I found this funny at first, until I thought about it. We associate the club’s ground with solidarity and community. While I don’t think anyone was planning to ride out the storm as they “manned the wall,” the desire to connect to the club in anxious times isn’t that strange. Whatever the extent of damage, Orlando City will have a role in the recovery process I’m sure. The organization has proven to be a fantastic community focal point in times of civic crisis.
While out gearing up for the hurricane, I was reminded of another way Orlando City, and sports in general, can provide a friendly moment in anxious times. Having thrown on my favorite Orlando City black-on-black baseball cap, a guy waiting in line with me struck up a conversation about the D.C. United game coming up. A late-season match-up between two teams out of the playoff race wouldn’t normally warrant a conversation with a stranger. In this moment, it was something nice and unrelated to hurricane talk.
As a near life-long resident of Orlando, I’ve always oddly enjoyed the community togetherness of impending hurricanes. There is something communal and equalizing about the experience before, during, and after. In a place that struggled to find a sense of community in its periods of explosive growth, these moments were reminders that we were in this together. Orlando has slowly ingrained community into its civic life since those days. While one can point to a vibrant arts community, nightlife, music scene, or business community as different expressions of how that civic life has developed over the years, Orlando City has been a recognizable aspect of it as well. The MLS downtown stadium/grassroots supporter formula has worked to near perfection to add purple to Orlando’s vibrant community rainbow.
So, with one of the most significant hurricanes the state has ever seen knocking on our southern shores, my concern for this city that I love is real. While I worry about Orlando’s beautiful communities, homes, and majestic live oaks being damaged, I don’t worry about its people because I know them, and they are resilient.
Since writing this the storm track has changed a number of times, leaving Orlando in a “cone of uncertainty.” It is my hope that once this article publishes, maybe Hurricane Irma will have decided to leave its strongest winds elsewhere and Orlando can add another near miss to the list. Whatever happens, I hope the Orlando City community all ride the storm out safely. I’m looking forward to Sept. 27 and the New England Revs coming to town.
Another note for our friends in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area, who look to be getting the brunt of this storm — our rivals on the pitch, but in moments like this, just fellow Floridians riding out a storm — I wish you the best as you weather this hurricane.