MARCO ISLAND, Fla. — Freedom. Strength. Dignity. Those are the qualities bald eagles have represented for centuries. Now for the people of Marco Island, bald eagles represent one more thing: hope.

When Hurricane Irma made landfall on Marco Island, its 130 mph winds ripped trees from the ground, tore roofs off buildings and turned power lines into a tangled mess, yet through it all, the bald eagle nest survived.

Marco Islanders are calling it a miracle.

“For me this is a huge sign of hope, unity and strength,” Lynn Roscioli said. “That’s why this majestic bird represents our country and this island.”

Carl Way, founder and chairman of the Marco Eagle Sanctuary Foundation, an organization devoted to preserving the environment and its inhabitants, said many residents reached out to him after Irma asking about the eagles, and they’re ecstatic to learn that both the nest and its residents are safe and sound.

“The eagles are important to many, many people. I’ve been getting a lot of calls and texts asking about the nest, and everyone is so happy it’s still there,” he said. “For something like that to survive what we went through is just amazing.”

Barbara Breen is one Marco Island resident who’s thrilled the eagles are OK.

“This puts happy tears in my eyes,” she said. “I was so, so worried about our beloved eagles.”

The eagle pair has been an important part of the Marco Island community since at least 2003, according to the Marco Eagle Sanctuary Foundation, and now, just like the rest of the community, the birds are busy rebuilding their lives after the storm.

“The day after the hurricane the eagles were already putting their nest back together,” Way said. “They’re rebuilding, and it gives us hope that we’ll have another successful nesting season.”

The foundation was actually scheduled to install an eagle cam on Sept. 11, but that will have to wait until after nesting season is over in May, Way said.

For now, islanders are simply happy the eagles are there, serving as a symbol of hope, perseverance and a promise of tomorrow.


Information from: Naples (Fla.) Daily News, http://www.naplesnews.com