It has been so difficult watching the pictures online. The wake Hurricane Irma left behind is a sad, sick image revealing broken boats, uprooted trees, smashed cars, lost homes and destroyed towns. The upheaval that the people in the Caribbean are experiencing is unfathomable. They’re hardy people, and they’ve been here before. We heard their stories firsthand when we traveled there last year. They told us how previous storms shaped their landscape and their lives.
But this time it’s different because I recognize these places. I can look through my photos and see the warm colourful streets and beautiful beaches in a time when they were idyllic. The broad smiles and friendly welcomes of the Caribbean people. I know people who live there year round, families who keep their boats here, who have businesses and family homes, year-round.
Looking at the pictures and knowing what they looked like before Irma rolled through, is eye opening and humbling. As cruisers, we romanticize life in the Caribbean. We show our friends and family ideal sailing conditions, constant sunshine, 29 degrees everyday, beautiful beaches and lovely restaurants and bars. There’s obviously a downside to living in this part of the world and nature showed us why this week.
I cannot tell you how sad I feel for the friends who have lost boats, businesses, houses and livelihoods. It’s hard to watch the videos and pictures that are seeping into social media. At 2am on Tuesday night I awoke and searched every app I had access to to see what was happening in the Caribbean. The image that sticks in my mind is the radar picture of Irma swallowing the small island of Barbuda.
My mind constantly returns to a family who was moored in front of us in The Lagoon in St. Martin many times this week. There was six of them living aboard and they had been there for a while. The young boy would take his dinghy out everyday and hoist his sail, teaching himself how to handle a boat. I talked to his 14-year old sister at Lagoonies and she told me about her life and her plans of the future. She told me about her family too, where they’d been, and where they planned to go. She was worldly, yet naive, but so sweet! I’ve thought about them often this week and wonder how they fared. Their boat was their home, their refuge. It’s all they had to call their own. It’s probably not there anymore but I hope they managed to find a safe place somewhere to wait out the storm.
I’m not sure why I had to write this blog, but maybe it’s a reminder to me and the rest of us that behind all the horrid pictures and the media stories and the social media posts, there are people like you and me, who are experiencing a hellish time, and they may need a prayer or a kind thought, or a donation to get them through.