Lynn Martina was inside. She still leads the company that her grandparents started decades ago. Her parents ran after them. Back then, it was a tin building on this site along Highway 98. A hurricane in 1985 wiped it away from the beach, and Martina's parents built a firmer structure with cinder blocks.
"My father said to my mother:" Is there nothing that is going to take that building? "And that did not happen," she said. "That did not happen, my father has now passed away for three years and it's true."
The storm surge did not take away the building, but it did take away their entire back deck, made of concrete and wood, together with a rear wall – and that made water in the interior possible. The water carried almost everything that was not on a shelf or counterpart, food, even furniture – out the door, across the street, to the other side of the highway.
She thought it would take a while to reopen, but she was dedicated. "We are survivors, we have done it before, it is simply the price we pay for the life where we live."
The bridge from Eastpoint to Apalachicola is now open – rocks that once lay on the coastal side of the highway to break waves were carried by the storm surge on the road, but since then they have been emptied.
Apalachicola's small inner city was flooded with muddy water. The storm surge carried several boats, once moored in the harbor, to the city or the marsh. But the damage in this city was relatively light compared to its neighbors, especially Mexico Beach along the coast to the west. The result was that most first responders came through the city – utilities, FEMA – who were on their way to the badly hit areas.
Citizens in Apalachicola are left without immediate assistance. They described taking things into their own hands – clearing the roads, cleaning the mud from buildings and equipping generators to provide telephone charging stations for neighbors.
A retired day care operator named Faye Johnson, who has been living in Apalachicola for 14 years, said it might be better off than other cities, but they still need help.
"The people here, we are a community of individualists and people who survive on the brink of everything here," Johnson said. "We are 100 miles from everything and that is why we are here." We like it. It is a nice town, but people have to [be able to] come here."
Becky Sullivan / NPR
For the people here who chose not to evacuate – and those who came back after the storm to care for their homes and businesses – things are still difficult. Without help, food and water are short for some residents. Although many high-voltage lines in this area have survived the storm intact, the electricity is off and that can be for days. A hot meal and a cold drink are difficult to obtain.
On the pavement in front of a restaurant in the center, a group of volunteers served chicken wings and burgers with scoops of mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese. A long line of people, mainly residents of Apalachicola and Eastpoint, waited to be served.
"We decided yesterday not to sit down and get depressed, but motivate and bring some sunshine into the community," said Lindsay Shepard, a teacher in Apalachicola who helped organize the food line. "So we asked for donations from residents to clean up their freezers, restaurants to clean their freezers, so that we can feed people, they all need a hot meal."