Whole Lot of Shaking Going On


Every Irma story varies depending where on the island they were. Besides the screeching wind and the sound of bombs going off, the other distinctive was that the buildings all shook. It’s hard for me to imagine the cement structures literally swaying to and fro. After hearing this, it is a wonder more structures didn’t collapse. The air pressure could be felt in the chest and ears were popping. It was oppressive.

Our friends in Orient were enjoying a cappuccino down in the village when the evacuation orders came. The entire village area had to clear out. After the storm our friends ventured down the hill and were in total disbelief at the devastation. Debris piled all over and the palms dividing the main road in the village snapped with a car suspended in one of them. I forget how far inland the surge came and that this area was hit with a forty foot tsunami. The clearing out of standing buildings has begun. Black mold took over quickly and cannot be painted over. This all on the left side as one heads toward the beach. Le Noon has set up shop in front of their space. A canopy covers a bar, it’s hard to tell if they’re serving any food though. The Chinese grocer is open for business. In the restaurant court yard a couple of places are also up and running.

I was proud to hear that US marines were down on the beach as part of the relief efforts. They set up a desalination station where locals could get fresh drinking water. The French Foreign Legion made the rounds into the neighborhood handing out ration boxes. Only the French would hand out duck, canned salmon, and couscous. The kit was complete with a self contained burner for cooking and matches. We wonder if the less fortunate in the less desirable areas got the same treatment. In another area with Villas they received shrimp, pasta, and Rosé.

Many people were glad to have been on the French side of the island in the aftermath. The Dutch also feel the same way about their side. This makes it difficult as an outsider to get a clear picture of how it really was. Many people ran out of food and water. They waited in long lines at both airports in hopes of leaving. In Grand Case passengers who gathered all they could carry, were forced to leave all but one item behind. The street became lined with them. It was rumored that pets were not allowed n some flights either. One suitcase, they became refugees.

We met a couple fostering a young dog on Orient Beach. She was found in a ditch after Irma with something sticking out of her eye. She lost the eye and had a broken leg that also needed attention. The wind was especially strong that day and the pup was clearly uncomfortable. Healing is a process and for some it takes a long time. Nature keeps proving this to us and encouraging us in the process. Another difficult aspect of the aftermath is the lack of jobs and housing. We’ve heard stories of price gouging for apartments. One landlord is trying to force his renters from their homes before the lease is up. The unit must be empty for six months before he can remodel with the insurance money and then raise the rent. Meanwhile others are taking in people. The orphanage is just one example. When a child turns eighteen, the small government stipend goes away. Not everyone is ready to launch at that age. Thankfully they let her stay.

The resilience in the face of all these challenges leaves no room to wonder about the new hashtag #sxmstrong.


One comment

  1. Mark · December 21

    I have enjoyed reading your SXM blog. We have been going to SXM since 2010 and it has become part of our fabric. Being from Atlantic Canada we enjoy getting away south usually in February,March but have also been in November /December and April. We originally stayed in and around Marigot but have settled on Oyster Pond these last 4-5 years as we love the proximity to our favourite beach, Orient. We met so many locals as well as fellow tourists from Canada and the US and have become good friends with many.
    Thanks for capturing the heart of the island complete with its warts and scars. We had planned to originally come for a few weeks this February / March but our apartment was damaged so had thought of going elsewhere. Your blog has encouraged us to rethink and we now plan on returning this winter instead of waiting until 2019. Thank you for the inspired descriptions and thoughts

    Liked by 1 person

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