One year ago today, d’Sean Smith, 40, made a decision to use a jet ski to rescue roughly 60 people who were stranded on their roofs as Hurricane Dorian battered Grand Bahama.
Smith said despite putting his own life at risk, he does not regret the decision.
“[It] would be tough mentally but if people were in those circumstances, definitely I would [do it again],” he told The Nassau Guardian.
Smith said he knew about a dozen of the individuals he rescued.
“There were many I didn’t know,” he said.
In the months following Dorian, Smith encountered some of the other individuals he had rescued.
“Pre-COVID, I would get random hugs and gratitude when I was out and about,” Smith said.
The monster Category 5 storm crept up on Grand Bahama during the early hours of September 2, 2019.
It proceeded to terrorize the island for more than 24 hours, killing 11 people and leaving 22 missing.
Smith told The Guardian that he is reminded about the horror of that day whenever he leaves the house for mundane errands.
“It’s very dramatic to think about it. Not for me, personally, but the lives of the people that I saw during that experience,” he said.
“It’s hard not to [think about it] because you see the effects when you drive around the city and outside the city. You see the damage. You see whole spots of communities that were just decimated or abandoned.
“I think you have no choice but to think about it.”
A Department of Social Services assessment, which was conducted on Grand Bahama in November, revealed that nearly 50 percent of people on the island were unemployed.
Hundreds of Grand Bahamians were also displaced as a result of Dorian.
Smith and his family were among those displaced.
He said they were displaced for five months while their house underwent renovation.
He said the last year was filled with “drastic changes” personally and professionally.
“I think there are challenges all around,” said Smith, who works as the general manager of Spartan Builders, a general contracting company.
“If I had to pick one, I would say skilled labor for my industry would definitely be the biggest challenge. There are a lot of people looking for work but not a lot of people are at the skilled level that we need or even able to pick up certain skills.
“We really need to fill that void.”
Smith also said there needs to be a more “concerted efforts as to what the needs are” for the storm’s survivors on Grand Bahama.