Normally, I would be writing something funny or witty (to me, anyway) to post on a Wednesday. But this week is different. This week, a monster storm is pummeling the tiny rocks to my north. And this storm, Hurricane Irma (as the people who name such things are calling her), is wreaking havoc this morning on the first islands she encountered (Barbuda, Antigua, Anguilla & St. Martin). Then she will make her way west later today, toward the rest (BVI, USVI, PR, Hispaniola and the Bahamas).
Making light of island life just doesn’t seem right, at least not this week.
Of course, my rock of residence is well outside the hurricane belt. Tucked away near the protective shoulder of South America. Hurricanes, even when they do churn through the Caribbean, are more a nuisance here than a threat. Until this storm, I’ve only ever monitored them to determine how long our usually windy island will be still and non-kitesurfable (is that even a word?).
And, if I’m totally honest, even though I’ve lived in the Southern Caribbean for six years, until this past June I wasn’t especially knowledgeable about all the rocks to my north. Sure I knew they were there in a hazy sort of way. And that hurricanes could be a serious threat there.
But from a geography perspective I had no idea which rock was which. Or even where said rocks could be found in the Caribbean Sea. (I guess I didn’t pay attention in high school geography class.) Threatening storms were more an abstract concept (the *privilege* of living an insulated life).
But then I met a special group of women, many of whom call those rocks home. And I quickly learned much more about places like St. Martin, the BVI, the USVI, Puerto Rico and even the Bahamas. I also learned about these women’s personal lives, their families, their businesses. The things that drew them to their rocks and their hopes and plans for the future. Now all at risk, because nature is doing her thing in the worst way imaginable.
And this morning, as I sit at my desk with the sunshine streaming through the windows across the room – just another perfect day in paradise by all outward appearances here, my friends are in the throes of Irma’s worst. I am at a loss to truly imagine what people on those islands are experiencing – right now and in the coming days. Not just the storm (which is terrifying enough), but also what comes after.
Because long after the media coverage (scant that there is, at least coming from the US media outlets) forgets about “the Caribbean islands” and moves on to this storm’s impact on the mainland US, the people on those rocks will be dealing with the aftermath of this storm. Without benefit of FEMA or Home Depot.
And my heart is especially heavy knowing people I care about are in harm’s way.
I’m worried not just for those I know, but for those who share those rocks with them. I well understand the disparity of living conditions that exist throughout the Caribbean. While the people I know have the means to deal with a major hurricane from a personal safety standpoint (putting aside for a moment the potential loss of their livelihoods), many of their fellow islanders do not. Those folks are destined to ride out the storm, for better or worse. And all indications point to the latter.
I think about local neighborhoods on my own rock and imagine the same scenario played out on islands throughout the Caribbean. I might be scared by an approaching storm, but I also know my well-built, cement house, high on a hill, will theoretically provide adequate shelter for me and my loved ones. (Of course, is anything built to withstand a Cat 5 hurricane? I am not sure.) Unfortunately, I also recognize there are many others without the means to safely make it through a major storm. Houses strung together with odds and ends (and hope) in low lying areas are simply no match for hurricane force winds or torrents of water.
And so, by time this story goes live, people will be in the throes of what Irma came to do. And although I will be safe and sound on my own rock, I will be feverishly sending as many positive vibes as I can to each and every one of those I know (and also those I don’t).
I will also be constantly checking social media to see if there is any news coming from those tiny rocks to the north. Unfortunately, given their small size (and apparent lack of interest from major media outlets … other than a general reference to “islands in the Caribbean” … as if they are all one in the same), the best any of us can hope for is word-of-mouth via friends and friends-of-friends. Presuming, of course, there is even any way for communications to get through from the affected areas.
I’m not really into organized religion, so I won’t be “praying” in the conventional sense. But I will be constantly monitoring and worrying and hoping all is well. And I hope you can spare a positive thought or prayer (if that’s your thing), too.
Because the people on these tiny rocks will need all the good vibes they can get.
And to my Kappa Kappa Rock sisters across the Caribbean…stay safe, my friends. And keep the faith. We’ve all got your backs on this one.