Mexico Beach residents worry they've already been forgotten

MEXICO BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Saralyn Harder's short commute to a temporary job in a barbecue food truck at the edge of town winds through a paradise violently deconstructed. The palm trees, blanched by salt water, have turned brown and yellow. Dirty sand covers the sidewalks, with treadmarks carved by bulldozers and dump trucks.

wo months after Hurricane Michael, Harder can drive straight down scenic U.S. 98, no longer a slalom course of 15-foot debris piles. Many heaps remain, pushed to the side of the road, rained on and picked through, part of Mexico Beach's new topography. Sagging stilt homes loom over discarded ovens, scraps of insulation, siding and shingles, identifiable ruins outnumbered by the indistinguishable shards of life before.

The local market where Harder worked is gone. Her favorite tiki bar at the El Governor motel, where she drank cold beers with friends by the water, was destroyed, too. Her rental home survived, albeit with a greasy sheen on the floor from muck that not even four rounds of bleach could erase. She retreats there each night, with a shot of Hornitos Reposado Tequila and Sprite, and tries not to think too much about the damage or the past, when she would gaze at the tilting palms and white sand over her steering wheel.

"I'd see this beautiful place and I would say, 'Thank you, God, for letting me live here,' " she said.

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