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Life among the ruins

Rochelle Maycock talks to her 14-year-old son every day on the phone.

When Hurricane Irma moved over Ragged Island last September, it visited widespread damage and destruction.

The Duncan Town All-Age School was badly damaged. As a result, Maycock, who lives on Ragged Island, had to send her son to New Providence to live with his grandmother to attend school.

“I talk to him every day,” Maycock said. “I ask him about his work. I don’t help him. When he was here I used to help him do his work. I won’t lie, the school is essential. We need that. I really need that school open.”

Maycock said she wants to be with her son.

“This is very hard for me,” she said. “He’s used to me. All his life he was with me. This is the first time he’s gone away from me. Me and his daddy live here, but we had to send him to his grammy. It’s hard. He misses us. Every day he tells us he misses us. When we went over there for two weeks’ vacation he told us he didn’t want us to go because he misses us so much.

“It’s hard. I never knew it would be this hard. There are other people whose children were in the school who would like [them] to come back.”

Nine months after Hurricane Irma, the school remains in ruins.

The Duncan Town All-Age School. Rossano Deal

The school, which is made up of three buildings, seems frozen in time. The front door to a classroom is rusted and smashed in. Goats have taken up residence around the school.

Several goats congregated near the playground sitting underneath a slide. They scatter when residents walk by.

Inside the classrooms, chairs are stacked and the sheetrock from the ceiling has been destroyed, exposing the beams of the roof.  There are holes in the walls and a hole in the roof, exposing sunlight on several plaques sitting on a table.

Many of the windows are destroyed.

In one classroom, several bicycles are piled on each other. Next to them are damp boxes with papers and light bulbs. There are goatskin drums, a satellite dish and a volleyball in another classroom.

“The school is exactly the same,” Maycock said. “They had a clean up done to … take out the old moldy books or whatever. Yes, they did that, but the school structure, nothing.

“People really want their children with them, especially little children. Do you know what it is you have a daughter, your daughter is six-years-old and she can’t be with you?”

Maycock said she doesn’t want to move to New Providence. She said her life is in Ragged Island.

Only two children remain on the island, Maycock said.

“A lot of children want to come back whose parents live here,” she said.

Fewer than 40 people remain on Ragged Island. Before Irma, there were about 70 residents.

Change

Little has changed on Ragged Island since the hurricane.

The administrator’s building still has no roof. The police station is barely standing. A portion of the roof has caved in and many of the shingles are missing.

The water and sewerage facility is destroyed. Cats and goats linger near the ruins.

Maxine Wallace, who makes a living selling conch and other seafood, feels hopeless. Wallace was wearing a Free National Movement shirt and hat when she spoke to The Nassau Guardian.

Maxine and Daniel Wallace’s home. Bruised and dried conch hangs on a clothesline. Photo by Rossano

She said the government has done nothing for the island.

“You see them come back here and do anything for us?” she asked. “We [haven’t gotten anything done] yet. I mean absolutely nothing. You see anything? I lost all of these in the hurricane, my kitchen, and my roof [is] off of this [home].

“…Every time I look outside my door at my kitchen, I say, ‘Well, I don’t know but one day God knows.’”

Wallace built her kitchen in 1986 and it is where she “makes a few dollars”.

Like many residents, she is worried about the upcoming hurricane season.

Nino Francis, another resident, is still clearing debris from his home. The home overlooking the salt pond appears in better shape than many homes.

But piles of hurricane supplies, rubble and empty boxes sit in the front yard.

Ragged Island resident Nino Francis.
Photo by Rossano Deal

Francis, who was using a cane, said his home doesn’t leak anymore. He said life on the island is tough.

“It’s been tough before the hurricane and boy I can’t even describe it,” he said. “I’m just trying to cope with whatever; we have to face it.

“My home, I know one thing it’s not leaking for sure.”

Francis said the government hasn’t abandoned his island.

“A lot of people are bashing the government for it, but we don’t know what the government has up its sleeve,” he said. “They may be [putting] something in place and when they come it will be full force work.

“I’m still hopeful because they are in charge. We voted them in so we have to give them a chance to work.”

Travis Cartwright-Carroll

Assistant Editor at The Nassau Guardian
Travis Cartwright-Carroll is the assistant editor. He covers a wide range of national issues. He joined The Nassau Guardian in 2011 as a copy editor before shifting to reporting. He was promoted to assistant news editor in December 2018.
Education: College of The Bahamas, English

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