The sky was overcast as violent waves crashed onto the second-story balcony at the BahaSea Backpackers Hostel.
Tavonya Carroll, 28, a resident of Murphy Town, Abaco, and a survivor of Hurricane Dorian, sat uneasily watching the waves.
“This is the first place I’ve felt at home since I’ve come to Nassau,” Carroll told The Nassau Guardian.
Carroll and eight of her family members, including her four-year-old daughter, have been staying at the Sandyport hostel for free for about two weeks.
She was stoic as she described the events that led to her living at the hostel.
“When the second part [of Dorian] came over, it was like, ‘Oh my God,” Carroll said.
“It was like hell just burst open or whatever like that. We went to my church and the church just started to get crowded with people because everyone was coming for shelter…It was like they ran to this person house and their roof was off. They ran to the next person’s house and their roof was off.
“People actually ran to my house before I left to go to the church. So, all of us ended up moving from my house to the church and the church roof just split in two.”
Carroll said the scores of residents, who sought refuge in the church, ran to the basement after the roof sustained damage.
However, she said, the basement “started to take on water.”
“We was down there for like the rest of the storm until the next day,” Carroll said.
“The winds started to pick up and it’s like all the glass, the windows and stuff in our church, it started like breaking like one by one.
“It was like, ‘pop, pop, pop, pop, pop’. It was like it was just breaking.”
Carroll said the men in the church boarded the windows with plastic tables.
“Everyone in the building had to keep pressing their weight against each window to like hold the table up so that the wind would not come into the building and finish destroy it and take the roof off and stuff like that,” she said.
“We did that for about eight hours. Everybody was tired and their bodies was shaking from standing up so long.”
She described the events of that night as “very traumatizing”.
Carroll said she and her family decided to spend the aftermath of the storm in their truck after water started to gush into the basement of the church.
“We slept in there from about 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. that morning until about 7 a.m.,” she said.
“The breeze was just rocking the vehicle, just rocking it, rocking it all night. You almost felt like the vehicle was going to get flipped over and stuff like that.”
After observing Dorian’s decimation of Murphy Town, Carroll and her husband decided to pack their truck with essential items and head to the government clinic “because the church wasn’t safe anymore.”
However, the clinic was filled to capacity, according to Carroll.
“When we got in there, the place was crowded,” she said.
“It was like the only thing you could’ve [done] was go inside and just stand. You couldn’t turn around. You couldn’t get comfortable, so we just turned around and we went out to try to go to the government complex.
“When we got there, it was the same thing. The place was overcrowded. It was like everywhere you go to find and seek shelter was either too crowded or the place was destroyed.”
Carroll said she ended up spending “about two to three days” at her cousin’s house with about 40 other people.
But, she said she soon realized that staying in Abaco would not make sense for her and her family.
As her eyes filled with tears, Carroll said, “It was just bad. We ran out of water to bathe because the rain stopped eventually and we was really bathing with the rain water and stuff…So, our best bet was to just find a way to get off of Abaco because it wasn’t humane.”
Carroll said she left Abaco on a Bahamasair flight not long after the storm.
“When we reached Nassau in the airport, that’s when it all just sank in,” she said.
“It was like, ‘Oh my God. We don’t even know what’s next. What are we going to do?’”
Carroll said two relief workers at the airport put them in contact with the hostel and paid for their stay for the rest of the month.
The hostel’s owner, Nelly Biche De Bere, has also employed both Carroll and her husband at the facility.
Bere said she just wants Carroll and her family to feel safe.
“You can tell they are very traumatized,” she said.
“I mean food and lodging is a very important thing, but psychological help is important too.
“We have here a psychiatrist from the U.S. and she actually volunteered to help some children evacuate. As she’s lodging here, we’re doing this evening an art therapy group.”