Grotto gives prayerful faith as Hurricane Irma threatens Key West

Faithful gather in prayer at grotto built to keep people safe from storms

KEY WEST, Fla. – Some Florida Keys residents are looking to a higher power to keep them safe from Hurricane Irma.

Steven Bell was at the Basilica of St. Mary Star of the Sea in Key West early Friday to pray.

The church is home to the Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto, where those of faith gather in prayer in advance of hurricanes and tropical storms.

Bell said the grotto is where people go for "peace of mind."

According to the church website, the grotto was built in 1922 at the behest of Sister Louis Gabriel, who survived three major hurricanes since her arrival in Key West in 1897. The story goes that, upon its dedication, Gabriel remarked that as long as the grotto stood, "Key West would never experience the full brunt of a hurricane."

Bell is putting his faith in the grotto and staying in Key West, despite a mandatory evacuation order.

Local 10 News reporter Liane Morejon asked Bell what he asked from God.

"Serenity, really," Bell said. "Whatever we can find, the peace in whatever the situation is. … Everybody doesn't know where to go, who to turn to, what's going to happen. I mean, it's -- nothing's set in stone at this point."

Bell said he'll be staying with his roommate and dog as he rides out the storm.

"I'm just going to make the best of what I can at this point," he said.

About the Authors:

Liane Morejon is an Emmy-winning reporter who joined the Local 10 News family in January 2010. Born and raised in Coral Gables, Liane has a unique perspective on covering news in her own backyard.