Why are news outlets so quick to devour the stories of the misery of others? Weather reports have also followed suit placing reports in increasingly dangerous situations to show firsthand Mother Nature’s wrath. The viewer becomes a fly on the wall watching up close without consequences. Sensationalism has become the new norm we’ve come to except. Social media alerts everyone right away of the latest on the top stories as they unfold.
Irma, from the US perspective, glossed over the fate of the Caribbean and St. Martin specifically. Those of us who travel there regularly grew concerned for not only the island but all the friends we know and love who live there. Many of us stayed glued to social media for any shred of news.
I remember checking in with everyone and wishing them safety as we all said good night. In the morning during the eye, we tried to check in again. By then there wasn’t much communication from the French side. A local posted a video showing Simpson Bay with minimal damage. We were lulled into a false sense of security that maybe the storm wasn’t so bad after all.
The next wave of photos emerged telling what we feared most; the devastation of our beloved island. Family members off island were the lifeline for information. It was a worrisome waiting game until everyone was accounted for. The SXM sites worked together connecting concerned members with locals on the island. We rejoiced together with each name added to the safe list. We couldn’t imagine that gunfire and looting would also be reported. Evacuation and restoring order followed. Some of those who left have yet to return. After coping with food and water shortages there was a collective sigh. Storms following Irma grazed the island dumping rainfall on roofless homes. Mold added to the misery. The military distributed food and water but communications were spotty when there were any at all.
We watched stateside in the comfort of our homes. We waited as days turned into weeks. Word that friends evacuated to their motherland or a neighboring island flowed on message boards.
We wondered if we would be returning with what seemed to be so much chaos going on. Once flights began resuming we found a place to stay and booked our trip. Three months to the day Irma first hit, we landed. There weren’t many visitors and people gathered wherever they could to be together. Locals were and still are, traumatized. They are impatient, drink more, some choose not to venture far from home, while others have jumped into work. The strongest of men became unable to cope, women rose to take back their lives for their families. So many contrasting reactions.
The collective spirit of the people has moved forward, never forgetting what has happened to their island, their homes, their loved ones, and themselves. Six months later so much has transpired. We’ve gotten used to the leftover damage to buildings, derelict boats and cars, and tarp covered houses. Broken car windows have become more scarce as repairs are being made. Building projects are going on all over. The beach has cleaned up nicely. Visitors are returning and have acclimated to the island’s new look. More restaurants are opening and there are rooms available to rent.
Everyone here prefers not to dwell in the past. Those on social media who choose to are not being helpful or respectful. Let’s be part of perpetuating the strength and resilience of the island. Challenge negative posts from those who’ve not been here to witness the p
hoenix as she rises from the ashes.
Locals ask me all the time “even after the storm you still came?” Yes! We still came, we saw, bear witness to a metamorphosis of epic proportions. We’ve relished every moment. So don’t believe what they say on the cruise ships. The French side is open for business and is beautiful.
There are ways to help the island, negativity is not one of them! #sxmstrong