MEXICO BEACH, Fla. — From the moment Christian Hutchinson and his wife, Ellen, set their eyes on Mexico Beach, they knew they had found their new home.
“Sixty percent of the time, we have the beach all to ourself,” said Christian.
The couple found their dream home, a block off the water, just a year before starting a family with the birth of their little girl.
“We came in and got the house just the way we wanted it,” said Christian. “We decorated and spent a lot of time painting and buying furniture for our brand-new beach house that we worked so hard for.”
Then just two months after their daughter was born, Hurricane Michael’s 17-foot storm surge washed their dreams away.
“It came in and it was like a whirlwind of water,” said Christian. “It just came in and mixed everything up.”
Photos taken afterward show what was left. Nearly everything in their home had to be replaced.
“Walking through and seeing my baby’s crib upside down in my living room filled with debris and mud, that’s something you’ll never forget.”
But Christian and his young family weren’t about to give up the special community they called home. In a sea of destruction, almost immediately they got to work.
“Everybody else sees destruction,” said Christian. “We see our home.”
Now four months later, with the help of friends, family, and FEMA, their brand-new furniture is finally being delivered.
“We’re ready to be home,” said a happy Ellen Hutchinson.
And while the Hutchinsons are so excited about the idea of returning home not everyone is sure they’ll stay.
Cheryl Parsons moved to Mexico Beach shortly after the death of her husband.
“I came back Monday after the storm ... It just looked like someone had vomited over everything,” said Parsons.
As she waits for repairs, her once freshly painted walls are now filled with mold. She says the quiet peacefulness she once loved is now shattered by the noise of construction crews.
“I’m 72. I don’t want to sit here for seven years listening to constant noise,” said Parsons. “That’s just not what I want. I signed on here because it was beautiful and quiet.”
For that reason, Cheryl believes she may not return.
She dreams of a day when future generations might enjoy a Mexico Beach “similar” to the one she remembers, but knowns for her, this place will never be the same.
“Right now I look out there and I’m angry. I look at the water and I just don’t feel the same way… and that’s a loss that you can’t explain unless you have felt that.”
Cheryl is not alone. Many others may also choose not to return. But the Hutchinson’s say leaving is something they’ve never considered.
“I’m not the type of person to give up,” said Hutchinson. “Something as special as Mexico Beach deserves our affection. There’s not many places like this left.”
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