'That was my bedroom,' Keys resident says upon returning home

Hundreds of homes destroyed by Hurricane Irma

ISLAMORADA, Fla. – As Tom Ross gazed at a pile of debris on Tuesday, tears welled up in his eyes.

He looked around and tried to recognize any feature from his three-story custom Islamorada home from the pile of debris that it was reduced to after Hurricane Irma passed through.

"That right there ... that was my bedroom," he said.

The house was a special place for Ross and his family.

Brooke Gilbert, 15, held back tears as she looked at her childhood home.

She thought about the memories she'd made in the house and the good times her family had together.

"Well I used to snorkel out on the water here," Brooke said. "We used to swim on the beach and catch crabs with my cousins and we'd spend time with my grandparents in this house. We'd go to the sandbar just around the corner. It was really about spending time with family."

In Key Largo, Local 10 News reporter Janine Stanwood, a part-time resident, spoke to her neighbor, who was surveying the damage.

"I expected everything to be gone, you know," Rudy Blakey said.

Blakey, 84, said he's never before seen a storm that impacted the whole state like Irma did.

"I didn't expect it to be this bad, honestly," Tania Ramirez said.

Ramirez lives farther south of Blakey in the Silver Shores community.

"That was my retirement," Ramirez said. "That was a retirement for me, for my grandkids, you know, for my son."

"You're using the past tense," Stanwood said. "Why are you saying it 'was?'"

"'Was' because I don't know how long it's going to take to rebuild it," Ramirez said. "We don't know what's going to happen with the park."

In the meantime, Ross and his family are searching through the debris, hoping to find anything that survived the storm.

"That's all we can do," he said.

About the Authors: