Audrey Tynes was in tears after waking up on the first anniversary of Hurricane Dorian yesterday.
“People started calling and checking on me,” she told National Review. “And all I’m thinking is today could have been the anniversary of my death, but it didn’t happen, so I guess I’m here for a reason. I’m just reflecting on everybody that I lost. I lost so many friends and people that I knew.”
Tynes, who watched Dorian’s horror unfold in Murphy Town, Abaco, has been on New Providence since five days after the storm. It took five days for authorities to find her.
“It was the roughest day of my life,” she said of September 1, 2019, adding that the last year has also been “really, really rough”.
“Mentally, still not okay,” she said. “Still not working. Still trying to get my life back on track.”
One year on from the greatest natural disaster to hit The Bahamas in modern memory, residents of Abaco and Grand Bahama, who survived Dorian, still battle emotional trauma and still struggle to rebuild.
Adrian Farrington, who lived in Murphy Town at the time of the Category 5 storm, watched helplessly as a powerful storm surge swallowed his five-year-old son.
As Dorian terrorized Abaco and the waters rushed in, he fought to stay afloat with his son. After about an hour of treading water and bleeding, he noticed what appeared to be sharks nearby.
He grabbed his son and put him on the rooftop as the water rose. He urged the boy to keep breathing, and not to cry.
“But before I could sit on the roof to hold him, the gust from the hurricane dragged him across the roof back into the surge on the next side,” Farrington recalled from a hospital bed in Nassau several days after Dorian.
He added, “I still could remember him reaching for me and calling me, ‘Daddy.’”
Yesterday, Farrington, who was at work on the Baker’s Bay project at Guana Cay, told National Review that to his knowledge, his son’s body was never found and no one ever took his DNA in any attempt to identify remains collected by the authorities.
Farrington said he still loves and misses his son, but is moving on with life.
“Every day that comes, you just have to try to make life better,” he said. “All I can do is try to make the best of whatever life I have left, and give God thanks for that.”
The remains of 55 unidentified storm victims were buried on Abaco on May 22 as officials no doubt wanted to avoid the embarrassment of hurricane season starting without burials from last year’s storm taking place.
Many Abaco residents were angered that the process of identifying remains had not yet been completed. Many felt loved ones were being buried without their families getting an opportunity to say goodbyes, and to get closure.
The official count of Dorian’s missing is 279. The official death toll is 76 — 63 on Abaco and 13 on Grand Bahama — though many do not believe the process of identifying the missing and the dead was a credible one.
For those who live to tell Dorian’s tale, it’s impossible to put into words the magnitude of what they survived.
Reflecting on the experience, Nikieva Wallace, who now lives on New Providence, said yesterday, “It was absolutely mortifying how quickly everything turned into nothing.”
Wallace was at home on Key Street, not too far from Front Street in Marsh Harbour, with her boyfriend, his seven-year-old son and their two-year-old son last September.
When the first shutter came off, her first thought was “these guys really didn’t batten up properly”.
“In seconds, the house was mashed up, the house was gone,” she recalled. “I had to grab the two boys by their shirts and fling them under a bed. Then we had to move from under the bed into the kitchen, between the refrigerator and then our freezer. We had one piece of sheetrock; we were just hiding behind that sheetrock.”
They escaped in the eye of the storm.
Wallace and the toddler clung to a neighbor’s boat that had been flipped over by Dorian as her boyfriend swam with his oldest son up a hill to another house. He returned for the younger son, whom they wrapped in a life vest they miraculously found, and swam with him back up the hill in an estimated 20 feet of water.
“Our oldest boy was so scared, he was asking, ‘Are we going to die? Is Jesus coming? Is God coming?’ And I was just like, ‘No one’s dying today,’” said Wallace, still thankful for the neighbors who took them in for days after the storm.
“It was just so terrifying.”
Early yesterday, Wallace deleted her social media apps so she did not have to see the constant Dorian memories on her feeds.
“I’m at work, so I didn’t want to break down,” she told National Review.
Her boyfriend’s older son is now in Hope Town with his mother.
“It is so terrifying because his mom didn’t know whether he was dead or alive,” Wallace said. “It was two days after his birthday that the storm hit. He was with us.”
She recalled that the boy’s mother’s boyfriend came to the mainland to look for him after the storm.
“When he saw our house, I could see him down the hill; he broke down. He got weak, weak when he saw our house because he didn’t know whether we were in there or not,” Wallace said.
“Someone told him we were up the hill and he came running. I just cried because if something had happened to that woman’s child and he was with us, I don’t know how I would have forgiven myself.”
Wallace said her young son does not show any signs of trauma “luckily because he’s too small to remember anything”.
“But kids are resilient,” added Wallace, who works in sales on New Providence.
Wallace does not have any immediate plans to move back to Abaco, but looks forward to the older boy visiting them soon in Nassau.
Speaking to National Review from Green Turtle Cay yesterday, Sarah Sams, whose family suffered great property losses and lost many people they knew, appeared somber.
“I think everybody’s just grateful for life and still in shock,” Sams said. “All of us have lost somebody, so that’s in our minds. It’s certainly a day of mourning.”