Florida Keys

He arrived in the Keys for a new job. A week later, his home was destroyed

Brandon Bowman outside the house he’s renovating on Man-O-War Drive in Marathon. The former Google employee who now works for the city has quite the Irma story.
Brandon Bowman outside the house he’s renovating on Man-O-War Drive in Marathon. The former Google employee who now works for the city has quite the Irma story. Keynoter

The first day at any job can be hectic, especially when it turns into an evacuation process followed by 21 straight days of work — on top of being displaced from your new home.

It’s the story of what happened to the city of Marathon’s new IT and building permit technician, Brandon Bowman. The former Google employee’s first day on the job was the week prior to Hurricane Irma’s devastating blow to the Florida Keys in September.

He evacuated to Orlando and returned on Sept. 11, working nonstop the next three weeks for a minimum 14 hours a day. The house he was renting on Man-O-War Drive was destroyed.

Next door to Bowman’s, he found his 84-year-old neighbor in a state of shock the day after the storm, who he then drove to Miami International Airport and put on a plane to New Jersey to be with his family.

Bowman is now renovating another house on Man-O-War but is still living at the Marriott.

“It’s kind of making me feel like a grown kid in a sense. Sometimes I’ll just walk up and grab candy and I just sign for it,” he said with a laugh. “I’m cringing about what I might have to pay at the end.”

Between working full-time and renovating the house, he has about a two-hour window at night before he goes to bed and does it all again the next day. It’ll be worth it someday, he said, as Marathon is the place he fell in love with after visiting a friend, Christopher Jennings.

Jennings and his girlfriend, Deborah Mangrum, died as a result of a Nov. 28, 2009, car accident at U.S. 1 and 23rd Street shortly after Bowman’s visit. The pair had only recently moved to Marathon. Mangrum, a mother of four, died at the scene. Jennings passed away a few days later at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. The drunk driver who caused the accident, Pierson Villalobos, is serving two 15-year terms in state prison for vehicular manslaughter.

Two memorial markers remain at the site of the crash, just a few streets away from the Marriott.

“It was one of those deaths that bring perspective to what your goals and direction are,” Bowman said. “I decided this was where I wanted to be long term, so I waited until the time was right.”

Katie Atkins: 305-440-3219

Follow more of our reporting on Hurricane Irma impact on the Keys

See all 9 stories
  Comments