When I saw videos and photos of the hundreds of people who, in many cases with little more than the clothes on their backs, lined up for hours to escape to Florida from the horrors just experienced in Dorian on Grand Bahama, I cried.
I cried because it hit home to me how desperate and torn apart they were to want to do that, and how fearful they must have been of what life would be like if they stayed.
I cried because I thought about the families who would undoubtedly be separated and the communities that would not only be void of homes now destroyed, but void of the people who give a community life.
I cried because in that moment, it hit home to me that life on our island would never be the same again.
It’s been 50 days since Dorian tore our world apart.
Life on Grand Bahama is not easy.
When you look into the faces of mothers who have lost children and families who have lost loved ones, it’s not easy.
When you drive through neighborhoods and see everything a family has worked for set outside in storm-soaked piles of what used to be, it’s not easy.
When you watch as children sleep in storm-gutted, centipede and insect-infested homes because their parents have nowhere else to go and no money to effect repairs, it’s not easy.
When you watch men swallow their dignity as they are reduced by Dorian from being breadwinners and providers to NEMA recipients, it’s not easy.
When after witnessing Dorian’s flooding you are now forced to grapple with whether it is worth it to live on an island where in any given year you can lose everything you work for at best, and lose your life at most to natural disasters beyond your control, it’s not easy.
When you look out at your island’s ravaged economic landscape and cannot see a clear path to recovery that can give you a sense of security moving forward, it’s not easy.
If you come to Grand Bahama without knowing the people, you might be led to think that most are virtually unaffected by Dorian’s devastation.
Grand Bahamians don’t wear their pain on their sleeve, and they are not quick to reveal the extent of their suffering.
But make no mistake about it, the suffering is real, as is the fear and uncertainty about the future.
Greetings now begin with, “How did you come through the storm?”
That’s because the reality is, no one has emerged from this storm truly unscathed, even if one’s losses might be less than those of others.
Dorian has traumatized us all.
Looking out at the ocean no longer brings peace and a feeling of tranquility.
Rough seas are frightening. High tides are frightening. Heavy rain storms are unnerving.
These days, I find myself checking Google Earth for the elevations of places around me, as if already contemplating in my mind which areas might fare better than others when another Dorian comes.
And come more often it may, they say.
“If I had some money, I would leave,” is what a young mother recently told me as she sat outside the flood-damaged home of a relative she is now living with because her home was destroyed.
She shared with me how proud she was to have finally been able to decorate her new home just the way she wanted to, and now it’s gone.
As I hugged her before parting company, I wished I could take away her pain.
But I couldn’t.
Her grief is a process, and I prayed that with time, she like so many others, would come through that process okay.
An uplifting moment came when I received a WhatsApp notice about a ceremony to be held this week to celebrate our island’s heroes who risked their lives to save hundreds during Dorian’s onslaught.
I marked my calendar so I would not miss the honor of coming together with my fellow Grand Bahamians to recognize these courageous champions.
Their spirit is actually the Grand Bahamian spirit.
We’ve been knocked down so many times by natural disasters, but somehow we find the strength to keep moving and to face the toils and dangers ahead, head-on.
With faith and a determination to succeed, we rise above the ashes.
What is life after Dorian on Grand Bahama? It’s a daily fight to rise.
My prayer is that as we wrestle to rebuild our lives, we look out for those who may not have the wherewithal we do so that in our rising, no man, woman or child is left behind.