Life has a funny way of repeating itself. At the age of 14, I lived through one of the most intense hurricanes to ever hit the Caribbean. Hurricane Hugo laid waste to my Island of St. Croix. Many months would pass before my family would regain any sense of normalcy. We grew used to taking cold bucket showers outside without any thought of whether we were being watched by some malevolent human predator.
We learned how to navigate through a darkened and partially-covered tarp roof house. The buzzing sounds of flies by day and mosquitoes by night became our unrelenting summer symphony. Consuming deliciously-served room temperature MRE’s was always an adventure. My siblings and I would argue about whom would get the last MRE fudge brownie. Our favorite pastime activity included playing with other survivors of the storm up to the last second before the martial law curfew went into effect for that evening.
My family and other families would eventually pick up the pieces of our shattered reality and rebuild our lives and properties better and stronger. I would eventually go off to college to the mainland (United States)—a place I would call my home away from home. My parents never left St. Croix. In fact, life was so amazing that they decided to have another child, my youngest brother. I remember sharing harrowing tales of survival with my brother—many, which he found incredulous.
I started this post by saying that life has a funny way of repeating itself. Well, several days ago and almost to the day, another Hurricane—a far more dangerous one—struck my beloved Island. My brother, the one who thought my tales of survival were far-fetched, now has his own story to tell. He, along with my parents, made it through the first part of this devastating storm—Hurricane Maria.
I know what it feels like to depend on others for my survival.
The most difficult part of this terrifying and mind-numbing experience has just begun for my family. But they will be okay. There are other families who have lost everything. I mean, literally everything except the clothes on their backs. Roads are blocked in. Food is scarce. Water supplies are running low and/or becoming contaminated.
The sickly and elderly are running low on vital prescriptions. Those who are able to travel by foot must tread gingerly so as not to injure themselves on wind scattered debris. Those with access to transportation have to maneuver around downed power lines and other hazardous obstacles. Access to life’s basic amenities, i.e., food, shelter and clothing, is a daily fight for survival.
I know what it is like to live through a hurricane and its aftermath. I know what it feels like to depend on others for my survival. I recall cheering at the beautifully-deafening scream of C5 Galaxy aircraft passing directly overhead. I remember strangers—people whom I had never met before and many whom I would never get to say “thank you” to— banding together to make sure we did not die of thirst or hunger.
When you are living in comfort, it is easy to forget those who are less-privileged. But as a survivor, I cannot and will not forget those who need help even as I write this article. I am asking you to do the same—remember the people of the Virgin Islands and others in the Caribbean. They need our help—any help we can offer. And trust me, the good you do for them will never be forgotten.
Please join me in this relief effort for the people of the Virgin Islands. You can contribute here. Virgin Islands Hurricane Relief Page.
To see footage of Hurricane Maria’s aftermath, visit: Virgin Islands Drones.