“Hurricane Dorian rips through the northern Bahamas and leaves almost nothing behind.”
“Countless bodies piling up in Dorian’s wake.”
These are the headlines many have been reading about my wonderful island home, Abaco (part of the Bahamas), recently. The mass graves that have been dug in order to accommodate the countless who have lost their lives are places that I drove by my entire childhood. The photos of the forty-six-foot fishing vessel in the middle of the road is three hundred feet in front of the entry to my neighborhood. Broken is the only word that can truly describe the feeling I and my fellow Bahamians have been experiencing since we realized how truly devastated our safe haven is. My parents stayed in Abaco during the storm as they always do during hurricanes. The only difference this time is that this was no seasonal hurricane. This storm was a cruel and cold-blooded killer.
During Dorian, a cyclone of godlike proportions, a window in our house that has withstood many hurricanes prior popped out. When it popped out, my parents ran to try put in back in place but could not. Once they gave up the effort, they felt the entire pressure in the house change and said their eardrums “felt as though someone had put needles right through them”. With the pressure change, the structure of the house suddenly began to give way and started to crumble with both my parents trapped inside. They put the dogs in the downstairs guest bedroom and huddled at the back door and waited for an ease in the wind and pressure so they could kick the door open to flee to a safe place. It was at this time that they said their farewells and goodbyes. My dad spoke about that moment saying, he still had faith, but my mother did not.
Shortly after that moment, the eye of the storm passed over them and allowed them to get the dogs and escape from our crumbling house. They, along with everyone in their area, had a 32-minute window to assess the situation and make the determination of where they would go for the second half of the storm once the eye had left their location. Luckily our neighbor’s newly constructed house stood the test of the storm, so they spent the rest of the storm with him and his wife. This also became their new place to live for the next three nights after the storm.
When the storm was over Abaco, it boasted winds of over 170 miles per hour for 10 hours and winds over 100 miles per hour for 14 hours. Very little can survive a monstrosity of that proportion. Full-size fishing vessels lined the streets, dead bodies floated throughout the town and hung out of cars and buildings. Infants were ripped from their parent’s arms as they sat on top of houses to avoid flooding and buildings collapsed on entire families. Total loss is as accurate a summary as one can give. Over 90 percent of Abaconians are without a home and ground troops estimate the loss of life to be close to 1,000 for the Abaco island alone.
In the hours following the storm, a small group of the Haitian population that lived in the shanty homes and poorest areas of Abaco, who had their homes wiped out very early into the storm, went and looted the guns from the hardware store. This created mayhem on top of an already stressful situation. The small group of rebel Haitians went all around the main township looting with guns and stealing supplies. My parents and their neighbors took shifts with the shotgun to ensure no one came for their supplies and even had to wave their guns at a few of the looters one day to get them to leave the area. My parents were desperate for a way out, so my family and I worked around the clock for 72 hours, to try to find a workable plan to try to get them out. Bahamas National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) blocked the airspace for nearly 48 hours, so it was impossible for us to fly them out. Finally, a full four days after the storm, my parents boarded a private charter to leave the island and get to safety.
Dorian’s destruction goes far beyond what happened on the island that day as many Bahamians are showing clear signs of PTSD and need treatment, but corrupt government organizations still don’t even have all the people safe or fed yet. Therefore, unfortunately, we are a long way away from anything like that. Despite all of this, Bahamians are a historically resilient people and as our national motto states, we will continue “Upward, Onward, Forward, Together.”
Written by Mill Albury.