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Hurricane Maria – The Aftermath – St Croix USVI

I am scribbling this in my notebook to post onto my blog later. Today is September 27, a full week after Maria. I am feeling very low today. Early this afternoon, thunder began rolling in and I started feeling anxious. My husband assured me that it would just be a normal storm but I still began to feel uneasy. We have been on curfew from 12-4 daily except today, it was lifted to 11-6 but I don’t think we will be venturing out. It’s exhausting to battle the long lines with armed security and be in the thick of all the hurt. On top of our mountain, it’s been both a blessing and a curse to be so secluded. For the first week, we weren’t even able to travel down except by foot. Part of our road had collapsed and heavy, felled trees locked us in. The isolation was/is very real. We have been without cell service or data/internet since Irma, which now puts it around 2 weeks without an outside connection, save our neighbor who so graciously plays his radio for us each night. We have also been without power since Irma {except for the 2 days in between the 2 hurricanes when it made a brief comeback}. This means no running water, lights, no fresh food/etc. Luckily we have a gas stove but our neighbors do not so we have been gathering at supper time for a collaborative meal for 4.

Remember what I mentioned in my last blog post about all the things I’ve learned about hurricanes? Here are a few more. EVERYTHING starts to mold. Yesterday, I found the handles of my steak knives covered in mold. Mold is growing all over our walls, our clothes…Oh, and the bugs. Island living always comes with a healthy influx of buggy roommates. It’s just part of life, especially when most places don’t have AC to begin with and all of the windows are open year round. Well, this is another level. We’ve had masses of jack spaniards, bees, ants, roaches/etc swarming our house, invading every nook and cranny. So far, J has been stung a couple times by bees, once by a jack spaniard and of course the regular barrage of ants/mosquitos. However, it’s never been this bad before. It’s like even the tiniest of creatures are freaking out too.

I would say that morale is one of the biggest issues. So far, I’ve only heard of 2 fatalities but I imagine with communication lines so sparse or non existent, there’s no way to really know. Cold drinks are like ambrosia. Ice, generators and cash are king. Rationing water is now a way of life and from our cistern, we carry buckets of water into our houses for filling our toilets/etc. Normal routines are out the window and with the water/power authority predicting that power will return around Christmas, it’s just another hit. Many don’t have a generator or can afford one. Ours broke down the day of the hurricane. Getting in parts from island has proven to be difficult.

Morale is what I see as one of the biggest issues for my island family and friends as well. Our wonderful farmer friend now has a fruit farm that has been completely defoliated. Many of the trees are split in half or completely uprooted. So much of our island landscape is in the same condition. I often look around in a daze at what used to be so rich, vibrant and abundant. Though I know it will return, it’s still a very sobering scene. We have been spending long days laboring along side him on the farm, recruiting some of our friends to help as well. It’s been his life’s work and we work in hopes that it will thrive again. But, his pain is palpable. I completely broke down when we first got there.

With limited resources and limited lines of communication, combined with the daily curfew, most aren’t able to work. It’s sad, frustrating and overwhelming. It certainly doesn’t help with morale. My neighbor told me she stood in line for several days in a row for 2-3 hours for 1 bag of ice {the limit}. Ice! Our daily life now consists of gathering water, taking turns with “cup showers” {which are exactly what they sound like}, hand washing clothes/dishes, working at the farm, scrubbing up after water damage/mold, feeding the neighborhood dogs and strays, driving to known spots where we can get a few phone calls out then driving to a separate place to hop on to a few established wifi hot spots. Afterwards, we will visit those with a generator to charge up electronics {that are pretty useless anyways when we return home but again, morale} then going to bed around 9:30. I’ve never been one to go to bed before midnight. Last night, I woke to a jolt around 2 and couldn’t go back to sleep until 4. Stress combined with no moving air without the aid of our typical fans on the hottest months of the year. Go figure.

2 days ago, we discovered one of the strays that we were feeding had died from a combination of old age, a dog fight and perhaps the stress of the hurricane? It’s been heavy day after heavy day.

One of our neighbors is severely disabled from a stroke and one of the first few days, we attempted to refill his medication. Lines were wrapped around the corner. Afterwards, we stood in line for the grocery store and were only let in a few at a time with security monitoring just nearby. The next day, we traveled from far east to far west on our island to check on friends. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find several as we weren’t sure where they were, had no way of reaching them or couldn’t gain entry because of downed power lines/trees. I haven’t spoken to one of my friends since before Irma. By pure luck, we ran into one of our other friends on the road and I felt so relieved that I began to cry and she let me cry in her arms.

One of our friends lost their entire home and all that is left standing is their living room. I also have friends that only lost a single storm shutter. Everything else is intact. One of our friends that we checked on hadn’t been able to communicate with anyone for 6 whole days! When we called his daughter for him to let her know that her father was alive and well, she sobbed with such gratitude.

Help is here. The moment we got in to Frederiksted, I saw the National Guard posted up and a cruise ship parked by the pier. I was told it had carried workers in from Florida. I am also happy to report that one of our nurse neighbors has seen such beautiful community pouring in at the shelter she’s working at with donations of both time and hot, home cooked meals for those who have sought refuge at the American Red Cross. One good thing about the farm is that we have been able to donate tons of fresh fruit to the community. That alone has boosted my morale significantly. On one of those first few days, we walked down our mountain by foot to the shelter seeking information and the staff and volunteer were just wonderful.

A final thing I’ll say about hurricanes {again} is that it has no rhyme, reason or discrimination. All is in her path and what she wrecks or ravages has not made any sense to me at all. One of our beautiful trees was completely spit up but there is a potted plant next door that wasn’t even disturbed. This hurricane experience can be summed up in this way. It’s been very confusing, tumultuous and sad. I’ve experienced some high highs {realizing my friends were safe} and low lows {that very first moment I laid my eyes on our island after Maria} and it’s been difficult in a much different way than I’ve ever experienced.

I know that our island will rebuild but I once read that if you’re feeling sad, you should allow yourself to feel sad rather than to suppress it. I’m feeling sad and I’m allowing it to run its natural course. It shook me to my core to see our beautiful island and beautiful island people in this state. What’s crazier still is that I hear that other islands were hit even harder and the thought of this breaks my heart. But again, we will rebuild. It will be a difficult road ahead but we will rise!

I know, I trust, that what is broken, our island will heal in her own time. Please continue sending your chants/prayers/meditations and good vibes that all of the broken hearts will become whole once again. May we release this hurt and rise up stronger. #VISTRONG

3 thoughts on “Hurricane Maria – The Aftermath – St Croix USVI

  • James Casey says:

    May your spirit, and that of your loved ones, stay unbroken. So often, in our darkest hours, we find there is a light within us…a light that gives us hope. Words of encouragement alone seem so futile, but…sending thoughts and prayers, good wishes and hope for better days to you and your island family…

  • Angie. With help from Us residents, Volunteers Islanders pulling together, GOD! All sites devastated by Hurrican Maria will start to heal and recover! I do wish hurricanes were given NUMBERS NOT NAMESKeeping everyone there in my prayers Angie! Hugs to you!!

  • Alex says:

    Wow. I was moved by what you all went through. Please stay strong.

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