A New Perspective

Roberto Gonzalez

I may be the editor of the city’s magazine, but sometimes I get really exasperated with this city.

It’s the traffic—I mutter about it incessantly every weekday morning and afternoon when I hit the bottleneck at the 408 and I-4.

It’s the crime, recited nightly on the 6 o’clock news, from shootings over old girlfriends to con artists bilking elderly residents out of their savings in less than 10 minutes.

It’s the stifling heat this time of year, which has me soaked with sweat before I can even get to my car in the morning.

So is this really where I want to live?

And then, on the last day of May, I come home after a hard work week and tune in to the television feeds and Internet police scanners picking up on what’s going on 1,200 miles west of our supposed City Beautiful. And this is what I hear:

“It’s hard to tell where it’s going to cross. It looks like it’s going to pop out at the University of Oklahoma.’’

“We have no idea what’s coming. Stay underground.’’

“We know that an SUV was blown off the interstate. A mother and her baby have died.’’

And then this from a TV reporter in a helicopter: “We are detecting power flashes to the west.’’

Power flashes? What does that mean? And then it dawns on me: That’s how they track tornados that can’t be seen because of heavy rain.  The flashes are an indication of a twister’s path as it obliterates power lines, as well as houses, stores, farms, families.

What I’m listening to is a blow-by-blow of a disaster in Oklahoma City and its suburbs, devastated the past few months by murderous storm funnels as big as two miles wide at their base, packing winds up to 300 mph. That’s more than twice the speed of the hurricane winds we deal with in Florida.

So I begin to put it into perspective. On my way home May 31, I stopped at a 7-Eleven to get gas. About the same time in Oklahoma City, a throng of people were breaking down the door of a convenience store to seek protection from the hell heading their way.

Suddenly the traffic jams, the strange crimes, the blistering heat don’t seem so bad anymore. Yes, Central Florida has its share of occasional disasters. Who can forget the early morning tornado outbreak in 1998 that killed 42 people? Or the twisters spawned by the feeder bands of hurricanes that tear through here every few years?

But we usually have time to get out of the way. And we generally have some of the most pleasant weather in the world.  During mid-May, when the magazine was photographing many of our 50 Most Powerful People at Lake Eola Park, I marveled—as did many of those on the list—at the perfect temperatures, the cloudless sky. I had feared that an afternoon thunderstorm might ruin everything. But it didn’t happen.

A few weeks later, when the daily storms did begin in earnest, they brought replenishing rain, not disaster. Not once did I doubt that I would live through the night, and I was pretty sure that the national news media wouldn’t show up in my neighborhood for an interview. I even found myself looking forward to making that slow commute to work. Because even though I might lose a few minutes to slowpoke drivers, I realized that, unlike some of the residents of Oklahoma City, there was little chance I’d lose everything.

City Beautiful, indeed.



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