September 2,1935, Labor Day - a hurricane hit the Florida Keys and was the first Category 5 Hurricane to make landfall in the United States. It was devastating! It struck at night and was terrifying as was recorded by any survivors.185 mile sustained winds fed the storm.The storm surge was 18 -20'. It destroyed everything in its way. Most buildings in Islamorada were leveled.
The ramshackle camps of the railway workers in Windley Key and Lower Matecumbe Key were swept away. About 200 WW I Vets at the camps were killed.
Henry Flagler's dream of a railway that would connect the Keys to the mainland died that night. The railroad was torn up and was never rebuilt. A roadway -The Overseas Highway, US 1- was constructed in its place. The Keys were accessible by the road and its bridges.
Only Gilbert (1988), and Wilma (2005) have surpassed the strength of the 1935 storm.
The monument at MM 82 in Islamorada was unveiled in 1937 and about 4000 persons attended the dedication. The stone crypt in front of the marker holds the victims' ashes from the makeshift pyres after the storm. In 1995, the memorial was added to the United States National Register of Historic Places. Locals, hurricane survivors, and descendants of the victims care for the monument.
I stopped to visit the site. I stood there picturing the howling winds, the wall of water and recalled the stories and photos from that September, 1935. So many lost their lives and so many survivors' lives changed overnight.