EASTPOINT — Anna Creamer sat in traffic on John Gorrie Memorial Bridge in Franklin County on Wednesday, trying to rock her sweat-covered toddler back to sleep as she anxiously waited to return to what's left of her home.
Hurricane Michael, Creamer had just found out from her husband, had spared her house on Wilderness Road. Her community, however, remains in ashes.
Wilderness Road was part of 800 acres destroyed in June after a prescribed burn in the Apalachicola River Wildlife and Environmental Area reignited. About 36 homes were destroyed and 140 residents were left homeless.
Creamer lost part of her home in the fire and she's still waiting for government assistance to rebuild. She said a neighbor extinguished the flames running up the side of her son's bedroom after the family had evacuated.
Some residents on Wilderness Road, like Creamer's husband, chose to ignore evacuation orders and ride out Hurricane Michael. The residents whose homes were destroyed hunkered in temporary FEMA trailers and mobile homes.
Residents who stayed behind said they were scared Michael would claim their homes, too. Even if those homes are just temporary.
"We have had tragedy after tragedy," Creamer said. "My life hasn't stopped since the fire. I'm in shock. I'm in disbelief. I don't know what to think. I'm just blessed and happy that my family is alive."
Eastpoint is the type of rural community where the skeletons of tractors rust in residents' front lawns and children's bicycles scatter the gravel driveways. The once beautiful forest of pine trees surrounding the homes are now black with soot.
Jean and Earl Butler, who hunkered down for Hurricane Michael with their three grandchildren, said the storm was scarier than expected. The family's main house was spared in the wildfire. They did lose their rental home next door and about $100,000 in tools and big machinery.
"Our house has been saved in two disasters," Jean Butler said. "What's coming next? I'm just glad everybody was okay.
"We didn't know what we were coming back to after the fire," she added. "We were just blessed we got out. The road was thick with smoke and cars were bumper to bumper. We're blessed our home was spared again."
What would have been three houses down if the homes were still there sat Jimmy Boone on Thursday, a colorful character the community knows all too well.
Boone lost everything in the wildfire, and he insisted on staying behind in his brand new mobile home to make sure the belongings he'd gathered since then would be OK. Boone said he wants the world to know his community of 41 years is strong and united.
"Honey, it's very sad," Boone said. "We've come out good. We just ain't got no power or water. Nobody lost their life. I lost everything I had in that fire. It felt very bad. Everybody pulled together and helped each other. That got us back to what we've got."
Boone said as the gusts of Hurricane Michael started up Wednesday, he thought for sure his mobile home would be blown away.
"But it didn't," Boone said. "It was very scary. Just blowing and blowing and blowing. Lord, I hope this is the end of all of this. Maybe the good Lord will take care of it? He took care of us this time.
"I'm going to start cleaning up the mess, just not today. I'm just too tired."