Hurricane Irma arrived in Florida as a large category four storm, and was one of the strongest to ever hit Florida’s southwest coast. The $8000 sign was knocked down while the storm raged, but Rotary Club members who provided the sign say that its disappearance was deliberately perpetrated. In its absence, they erected a hand-painted sign to welcome visitors.
Original Key west sign found in Fort Myers yesterday is back home! The temporary still hangs in its place welcoming people to “Paradise USA” pic.twitter.com/15XTCs3ZDD
— John Trierweiler (@JohnTrierweiler) October 13, 2017
Members say that the sign went missing because a young couple in their 20s had a “lapse in judgement,” but were very remorseful when contacted. The original sign was found 300 miles away from its home in Fort Meyers Beach, according to Key West Florida Weekly, after someone took a photograph of the sign sitting in the back of a pickup truck and posted it on Facebook. A witness said he took pictures and a video of two people loading the sign into the truck and Key West Police detectives were able to use a picture showing the truck’s licence plate number to track down the owner.
The young couple brought the sign to the Key West Express ferry terminal, and ferry employees carried it back and returned it to Key West police. A young man made contact by phone and emails saying, “I would like to apologize for the stupidity and realize the best place for the sign is in its original home. I hope you can forgive this lapse in judgement.”
When the sign was brought into a Rotary Club meeting at the DoubleTree Grand Key Resort on South Roosevelt Boulevard, it was greeted by cheers and a standing ovation from its delighted members. As to the young couple, members say that all has been forgiven now that the sign has been returned
The Welcome to Key West sign has been FOUND! The Key West Police Department presented the sign back to The Rotary Club of Key West at our meeting this afternoon.Thank you to everyone who helped to bring our sign home!
Posted by The Rotary Club of Key West on Thursday, October 12, 2017
Rotary president, Albert Gonzalez, said that the sign needed refurbishing anyway, before the storm, and that will now take place before the sign is placed back at its post welcoming visitors once again.