Old Town, Florida
By Brian Blanco
You feel a moment. I’m not certain if it’s a second lost or a second gained, but in that moment the Earth stops. It’s the moment you watch a child, a young girl in purple shoes, pull a loaded AK-47 assault rifle from the cab of a pick-up truck.
The child, 9-year-old Brianna, had no ill intentions with the weapon of course. She was simply retrieving the gun for a man she affectionately calls “Uncle Jim”. He is Jim Foster, a 57-year-old former police officer and the leader of the North Florida Survival Group. The organisation teaches children and adults alike to handle weapons, and Jim refers to it as a ‘militia”.
By Brian Blanco
It’s an awkward feeling walking through someone’s home while photographing their children sloshing through rising floodwater in the living room. It is, I can assure you, another feeling entirely when that same homeowner yells down from the second floor, “It could be worse, at least we still have power” as I look over to see the electrical outlets mere seconds away from being submerged. These are the moments that help to remind me that there are dangers involved in covering just about any natural disaster and that it’s important not to be complacent just because a named storm may “only” be a tropical storm, as was the case with Tropical Storm Debby.
SLIDESHOW: DEBBY SLAMS FLORIDA
As a Florida-based photojournalist I’ve covered more named storms than I can recall, ranging from those forgettable storms that, thankfully, produced little more than twigs in the street, to the now infamous Hurricane Katrina. I’ll admit that I was initially guilty of underestimating this storm. After getting the call from Reuters to cover Tropical Storm Debby, I was packing my car when my wife popped into the garage to tell me to be careful and I scoffed and said, “Oh Honey it’s “just” a tropical storm. I’ll go make some rain features and be back in a couple of days.” As it turns out, I was wrong, this storm caused more damage from flooding and tornadoes than I’ve ever seen a tropical storm cause. It ended up touching a lot of lives and, in meeting those affected, touched my life as well.