One year on, for many an unending storm

On the day Kendra Williams spoke to The Nassau Guardian, it was storming.

There was no hurricane, but bad weather takes her family back to September 2, 2019, when Hurricane Dorian sat over Grand Bahama and changed everything.

“That’s something I would never want to experience again,” she said. “Fifty-one years and I have never experienced anything like that in my life.”

One year later, Williams and many others are reflecting on the Category 5 system which created a lasting storm. On Grand Bahama, 11 people were killed and 22 are still missing.

Homes, businesses, the international airport, the public hospital and government offices were inundated by flood waters.

Williams, her son and six of her eight grandchildren, the youngest only a year old, were among hundreds of residents who were forced to flee to their roofs on that Monday morning, as sea water rushed in and drowned everything they owned.

As restoration continues all over the island, the family home, which Williams moved into in January 2008, now sits as a shell in the Heritage subdivision of Freeport.

“I can’t go back to it, I know that,” she said. “The kids are traumatized, so that’s a no-no.”

According to Williams, going anywhere near their old neighborhood is a trigger for the children.

“The kids start asking me where we are going,” she said. “They say, ‘Oh no, we don’t wanna go back there. We’re gonna drown; we’re gonna drown!’”

In the months after Dorian, Williams said, her older grandchildren received some counseling, but since the COVID-19 pandemic began, it’s been difficult to continue that care.

“Therapists came around and provided counseling, but with the COVID thing there is no counseling so there is more strain on me,” she said. “If there is any rain or wind, they go off; so now in our house we just say the ‘h’ word. I have to tell other adults not to say hurricane in the house.”

Before the storm hit, meteorologist Wayne Neely said, “I’m afraid for Abaco and Grand Bahama.”

Williams was afraid, too. While she was prepared for the worst, Dorian’s wrath wasn’t anything she could have seen in her wildest dreams or scariest nightmares.

“We had already battened down and had enough food and everything,” she explained. “But we never thought water would come in that area. I was worrying about the roof with six small children.”

That roof she was concerned about was the least of their worries and would turn out to provide refuge for six hours for the family of eight before help arrived. Once out of the house, they were taken to the nearest shelter at Church of the Ascension.

Williams said, “The guys who rescued us didn’t know where to go so we had to watch the wires from the light poles and guide them. There were like 50 of us in this like tractor head.”

One of the heroes in that extraordinary rescue was Sergeant 3703 Glen Telusma.

“It was truly a breathtaking experience,” he told The Nassau Guardian, “one that I will never forget. I’m just really grateful that we were able to rescue them.”

Telusma rode along with a fellow Royal Bahamas Police Force officer, a Royal Bahamas Defence Force officer and the operator of the tractor.

The sergeant still checks in on Williams and her grandkids, even sending treats for the children.

“You know up to today twice a week or sometimes three times a week we would hear from him, and that makes me feel good,” Williams said.

Telusma explained, “I just grew attached to them. They are the most brilliant kids with awesome personalities. I also developed a close friendship with the family.”

As the family prepares for the one-year anniversary, Williams said, “I told my coworkers I can’t promise you all what will happen. I don’t know… I just don’t know.”

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Taylor Ferguson

Taylor Ferguson joined The Nassau Guardian in 2011. Ferguson is a staff reporter and news anchor for Guardian Radio. Education: Spalding University, Barry University and Connecticut School of Broadcasting

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