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Adventures at Home and Abroad

Sint Maarten: In the Eye of Hurricane Irma

Sint Maarten: In the Eye of Hurricane Irma


Today is one of the worst days in SXM history.

Today is the day that Hurricane Irma hit, with Jose close on its heels.

Twenty-two years ago to the day, Hurricane Luis devastated the island, wreaking havoc and destroying the homes and livelihoods of so many.

I have walked through La Belle Creole, a resort that was destroyed by Luis. The ruins of the building, blown out windows, scattered furniture, and torn drapes, became a frequent haunt of mine. I could not imagine the winds that whipped the concrete walls into such shapes.

 

 

And now it’s happening again.

Just yesterday, Saint Martin was as I remember it: 37 beautiful beaches, architecture historic and new, brightly colored homes lined up neatly at the ocean’s edge.

When I go back, nothing will be the same. All the places I love will be gone. Will I recognize beautiful Soualiga?

The places might be gone, but as long as the people are OK, that is enough.

 

Photo Credit Flash Mateo Antilles

 

There was a terrible space of a few hours when all was silent on the island. The live camera at Holland House abruptly cut out, and the outside world had no contact with the island.

Here, in my new home in Michigan, the clear, blue skies and sunshine seem to mock the screaming destruction on the island.

Finally, Saint Martin has entered the eye of the hurricane. People are emerging from their safe spaces to assess the damage and find more secure places to stay.

I breath a sigh of relief every time I saw a post on Facebook from a friend.

But I cried at each new photo and video.

The island is under water.

 

The government buildings are destroyed, said the news.

They say 7,000 French Caribbean people refused to take shelter.

They say the historic buildings are wrecked.

I can see that the cars are all destroyed. Where will people come up with the money for new cars?

I can see buildings I know with roofs ripped off and water feet deep inside.

I can see people milling about in disbelief.

The eye of Hurricane Irma is twice as large as my tiny island.

 

Photo Credit Flash Meteo Antilles

 

What do you do in times like this? I know many of my friends are safe and secure on the campus of American University of the Caribbean, a category five hurricane shelter. But many people are not there.

Many people will take shelter, but still lose their houses.

Many people have actual homes on the island, and not just rented apartments and dorms.

The maelstrom around my island is mirrored by a maelstrom in my mind.

 

Photo credit Cyriel Richardsom

 

What is sunshine?

What is birdsong?

My reality cannot be real,

Not when the storm is the only reality for my island.

There’s something painfully agonizing about not being there.

Part of me is glad I moved away before the storm.

 

Photo Credit RCI

 

Part of me wishes I was there to help with the clean up.

I know I’d be OK in the basement of the medical school.

I know I could help rebuild.

But I can’t do that from here, and it’s making me sad already.

The damage isn’t even done, and the second half of the storm is still on its way.

Some stupid article about Donald Trump’s Saint Martin home keeps landing in the top posts on Google.

Who cares about Donald Trumps freaking house?

I doubt even Donald Trump cares about his freaking house.

I don’t care about an empty vacation home on Plum Bay going down.

I care about the shipping container homes on Pond Island.

I care about the family homes and foster homes in Dutch Quarter and St. Peter’s.

I care about the little beach houses in Philipsburg.

I care about the houses of all shapes and sizes filled with people I love and people I’ve never met.

 

 

I’m amazed that GEBE survived the storm and that power is still on.

I’m thankful, too, to see posts on Facebook and Twitter.

I’m glad you are OK.

What amazes me is that in the midst of the storm, people are praising God.

In a video of the destruction, a woman thanked God for being alive, even as she showed the wreckage of her hometown and Jeep.

My friend posted this video on Facebook: Made a Way by Travis Greene.

It’s strange how so much loss puts things in perspective. When everything is lost, the people of Saint Martin are thanking God for the things they still have: their lives and each other.

Why did God let a storm like this hit Saint Martin?

I wish I had the answer to that.

But I’m glad to see that people can still say he is good when everything in their lives has suddenly been lost in the storm.

Stay strong, SXM. Stay faithful.

 

 

This storm is going to hit a lot of places, but there are those of us on the outside who are thinking of you and praying for you.

There are people who are crying tears for you even as you are in hurricane shelters.

There are people who see your pain and feel it with you.

You’ve recovered from storms before. You can do it again.

Saint Martin can’t be taken down by the wind and the rain.

 

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