FREEPORT, Grand Bahama — With three confirmed dead on Grand Bahama, rescue teams yesterday fanned out their latest attempt to rescue those still missing after Hurricane Dorian, pulling out jet skis and heavy equipment to push through debris and flood waters.
Simultaneously, Grand Bahamians who took shelter elsewhere during the ferocious storm returned home to ruin.
“I never expected this. I thought we had water so far that we could just come and pull out the carpets, but I never expected the entire structure was demolished, just wiped out. I cannot,” said Mildred Johnson with tears in her eyes as she looked at her home left with no walls on the inside, her furniture a distance away from their home and every door on the house gone.
“We never thought it would have been like this because we would have taken much more valuable items. You can see the whole place is just blown away. All the walls, the bathrooms, the kitchen cabinets, everything is just blown away.”
Johnson decided to evacuate just ahead of Dorian with her daughter, but left her husband, Pastor Barry Johnson, in their East Grand Bahama home.
He survived by staying in the ceiling from Sunday to Tuesday, with a few energy bars and a bottle of water.
“There’s an air condition unit in the roof that I was on top of. At one point it crossed my mind that I wouldn’t make it,” he said.
“But I was ready to swim if need be.”
Concrete scattered all about, no sign of windows and the entire western wall of the structure ripped out; many of the homes in the eastern portion of Grand Bahama were destroyed.
Just outside one house, among the debris sat two pictures of a baby boy stuck together, just a few feet from his toy horse.
In the beams of the ceiling in the Emerald Bay home of Rev. Lloyd Rolle hangs a coffee table, which was placed there by flood waters that made it to the second floor.
Rolle said he punched a hole in the ceiling of the second floor as they went through the storm just in case. Outside, his guest house remains a pile of rubble.
“After the storm had passed my family and I had to use a piece of two-by-four to fish food that we had in our house from outside so we can eat it,” he told The Nassau Guardian.
“I built this house this high to avoid this type of situation. But after all these hurricanes from 1999 Hurricane Floyd, Frances and Jeanne (in 2004), I don’t know. I told the neighbors in Emerald Bay goodbye. I’m not going to rebuild anymore. I’m leaving. After 20 years it seems it’s getting worse every single time. We had 12 inches of water, 16 inches of water, but this time with 14 feet of water I got to go.”
Not far from there was a barefoot man riding a bicycle. He said he had not spoken to any of his family in New Providence to let them know he’s alive.
The Nassau Guardian made the call for him and for the first time Pearon Colebrooke was able to tell his sister that he survived the storm.
Some parts of Grand Bahama were spared the wrath of Dorian with minor damage.
Driving throughout Freeport, there are misplaced boats – one blocking the roadway – and near the airport an airplane sits across the street, another ripped in half.
Outside Monica Missick’s home, her furniture and her family’s clothing are on the lawn for drying.
“Me and my children and my boyfriend had to walk out in the storm holding hands,” she said. “I was so frightened; I was crying.
“I mean that breeze was so strong I thought my time had come. All my mind was on was my 13-year-old son and he’s short. To make it worse, I can’t swim.”
Missick said she’s ready to pay whomever to teach her and her entire family how to swim.
Dorian didn’t leave without taking the lives of numerous animals which were housed at Grand Bahama’s Humane Society on Coral Road.
Underneath blue tarp spread out to the west of the building lay the bodies of dozens of cats and dogs who drowned.
Grand Bahama Humane Society Staff Member Lucille Pinder, having survived the storm in the roof of her home, said the staff who stayed during the storm survived in the ceiling of that building as well.
“The sight was so sad to see,” she said. “We had people who came to pick up their animals and cried tears of joy to see them, but we also had many who cried painful tears upon learning that they didn’t make it.”