The wind pressure from Hurricane Dorian smashed in the windows of a well-built home in Marsh Harbour, lifting the roof from the building, forcefully ejecting two individuals clinging to the makeshift life raft of an inner tube into the elements and the potential death trap of the open ocean waters.
Mercifully, there was a lull in the onslaught as the eye of the storm passed over what was left of the physical structures of the historic community. A neighbor of the two stranded in the inner tube heard the desperation and wailing cries for help and came to their rescue saving them from certain death by drowning at sea.
There are many stories of courage throughout Abaco and Grand Bahama during and in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian. Many sheltered others in their homes. Others ran from makeshift shelter to makeshift shelter with babies, children and the elderly as buildings collapsed or washed away.
The forces of Dorian were so ferocious that metal frames were twisted like pretzels, bended around like Twizzlers candies. Reinforced concrete was turned to rubble and to fine dust, like granules of sand.
Forests were uprooted, turned into a sea of tree trunks and natural debris. Concrete buildings were sliced from foundations and boats from moorings. The natural and built environment became weapons, which Dorian flung and used as projectiles and instruments of further death and destruction.
On the frontline and in the midst of this physical apocalypse, many heroes flung themselves into the breach of Hurricane Dorian, saving others and comforting the distraught and the traumatized. Most of us have never experience the level of fear and trauma of those who unflinchingly rescued others.
A public nurse friend, a woman of compassion and great warmth, worked at a clinic in Abaco for the duration of the hurricane. She had a job to do. Her natural adrenaline helped fuel her empathy. She lost most of her possessions during the storm.
It was only after she flew out of Abaco after the storm and looked out the airplane window that she began to realize the extent of the devastation. She wept as she saw the devastation and imagined the loss of life, including of some for whom she once cared.
The heroes and people of goodwill who saved and comforted neighbors and strangers during the endless numbing and frightening hours that Dorian lingered over the Abaco Cays, Abaco and Grand Bahama, including West End and East End, entered into the breach of uncertainty and terror.
“Physical bravery is an animal instinct, moral bravery is much higher and truer courage,” wrote Wendell Phillips (1811-1884), an American orator, attorney and abolitionist.
Many of those who entered into the breach during the passage of Dorian, including Bahamian and international first responders, demonstrated moral and physical bravery.
Into the breach, other Bahamians, residents and non-Bahamians also demonstrated bravery and compassion, including members of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and the Royal Bahamas Police Force as well as military personnel from CARICOM, the United States of America, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
In a fit of irony, which seemed lost on those Bahamians who reflexively criticize foreigners and foreign investment, without the assistance of foreign governments, aid agencies, individuals and business groups, recovery efforts throughout Abaco and Grand Bahama would have been impossible.
The Bahamas, like many other small countries in the Caribbean and the Pacific, does not possess the resources to respond to an unprecedented event like Hurricane Dorian.
Scores of Bahamians came to the aid of those devastated by Dorian. A friend recalls the immediate instinct of his brother-in-law frustrated about how he might respond. His was determined to prepare meals for those in shelters in New Providence.
The army of repairers included private citizens, business groups, non-profits and others, whose first instinct was, “How can I help?” They were seeking to act and to speak with constructive advice and compassion.
The first instinct of some, including some inveterately angry showmen, was, “What can I find wrong?” and “How can I bitch and complain!”
Those who entered the breach with compassion and positive energy were in contrast to those still in a swampland of negativity and complaint, endlessly construing others’ actions and words in a negative light and spewing all manner of ferocious complaint, which is telling of their character and unstable inner state.
In contrast, in his Red Mass homily Sunday before last, Roman Catholic Archbishop Patrick Pinder addressed the need for discernment, courage and solidarity in the aftermath of Dorian.
He spoke of the need for dialogue. He spoke of the need for positive change.
And he addressed another breach in need of repair.
The archbishop pleaded.
“We cannot ignore the plight of the strangers in our midst. The Letter to the Ephesians speaks of the revelation to St. Paul of the ‘mystery of Christ’. Paul, himself a Jew, learned that we all are ‘coheirs, members of the same body, and co-partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.’
“This radical equality is the message of Epiphany. It is a revelation that is fundamental to the social teaching and the mission of the church. It is an invitation and a challenge to all of us.”
Archbishop Pinder continued:
Pope St. John Paul II in a World Migration Day message, put it this way:
“In the church, no one is a stranger, and the church is not foreign to anyone, anywhere. As a sacrament of unity and thus a sign and binding force for the whole human race, the church is the place where illegal immigrants are also recognized and accepted as brothers and sisters. Solidarity means taking responsibility for those in trouble. “
He further noted:
The post-Dorian era is time to build anew in The Bahamas — economically, socially, spiritually, responsibly. In fostering renewal and justice in 2020, we must follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit, like the Magi did in following the star and heeding the drea[m].
“It is past time for all Bahamians to improve the way we deal with the migrants in our midst. We know that they are primarily Haitians seeking to escape poverty and social turmoil in their homeland.”
“I believe that ignorance probably feeds much of the prevailing negative view towards these migrants,” said Pinder.
The Archbishop stressed: “The Bahamas and Haiti share much history. It is a history reflecting long years of trade and human migration. Many of the family names we regard as Bahamian are of Haitian origin — consider Bonimy, Deveaux, Deleveaux and Benjamin. Over time, both countries have benefitted from the exchange.”
He noted with moral clarity: “Today, the current way of dealing with migration is clearly unsustainable. Above all, the mounting migrant crisis demands the co-operation of the leaders of The Bahamas and Haiti. I understand that such efforts have been initiated in the past.
“Renewed efforts of co-operative action between the two nations, hopefully, can achieve a system of migration that is more just and humane, more respectful of the national sovereignty and the well-being of both Bahamians and Haitians.”
Those who are busy repairing the breaches in our country after Hurricane Dorian, through constructive criticism, positive action, empathy and love, are the repairers of the earth and builders of what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. termed, the “beloved community”.
It is these many repairers and builders, named and unnamed, who deserve each in their own way, to be among the people of the year. Their moral energy and example will be long remembered and like the Hope Town Lighthouse, will serve as symbol of hope and redemption for our country.