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Fort Myers Beach holds remembrance ceremony to mark one year since Hurricane Ian

Fort Myers Beach marks one year since Hurricane Ian
Fort Myers Beach marks one year since Hurricane Ian 03:01

MIAMI - It's been one year since Hurricane Ian slammed into southwest Florida.

Rebuilding after Florida's costliest hurricane has been slow and frustrating for many who are still waiting for relief money, insurance payouts, and working utilities. There are still empty apartment buildings and storm damaged homes with spray-painted addresses. But there is also a lot of construction, a lot of rebuilding, and a lot of hope.

On Thursday morning, the people of Myers Beach gathered for a remembrance ceremony at Bayside Park where a plaque was unveiled in the memory of those who died. Local leaders and officials from all over the state were there to honor those who lost their lives and talk about moving forward. 

Thursday was about growth and hope for the future. Tracy Mroch said she can't believe it's been a year.

"It has been a long year, it really has. It is a little disappointing that things have not progressed a little bit more down here. It will take time and we know that. It is just disheartening sometimes," she said. 

Later in the day, there was an event in the famed downtown area "Times Square," which remains mostly closed, in which a new clock tower was be unveiled.  

The losses are great and difficult for neighbors, as many who came to retire in the area now work to rebuild what they once had.

"It's heartbreaking, this was supposed to be my forever home," said Fort Myers Beach resident Diane Andruzko.

FEMA holds regular updates for residents like Andruzko who has been unable to return to her condo.

"No electric, no sewer, no water, no power, no services to the building," she said. 

"Yes, we made due to get by but as far as moving and improving, it's a little harder to do than you might think," said another beach resident Mike Yost.

He and his wife are living in a trailer in Bonita Springs, in temporary government-funded housing set up after Ian.

In Naples, some businesses were unable to open due to damage and flooding from the storm.

Many owners worked around the clock to get their doors back open in the days and weeks to follow.

Todd Johnson recalled walking into his restaurant Nosh on Naples Bay almost a year ago.

"I was just shocked at how much water had come in here, with mud, and the smell," said Johnson.

He and wife Dana own had to replace pretty much every piece of furniture.

"It was just heartbreaking to see a restaurant that you had just constructed, and you know, put all your heart and soul into just nine months before that happens. Here it is, it was destroyed and it was just a wave of emotions. It was tough," said Todd Johnson.

"You feel that kind of feeling of defeat. So you just break it down one day at a time, one step at a time, and you push through it," said Dana Johnson.

They said a majority of their employees came back and after hard work, and the determination to rebuild, Nosh opened its doors in just nine weeks.

"When they say come back bigger, better, stronger, I feel like we did. I feel like we accomplished that," said Dana Johnson. 

Fort Myers Beach Mayor Dan Allers said recovery could take years. 

"It'll be several years before we get back to what it looked like on the 27th before Ian came and, and took everything away. But we'll do everything we can to speed up that process to make it as short as possible," he said.

Thursday marked one step closer as the people work to move forward.

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