I am writing to highlight the plight of the US Virgin Islands after receiving a devastating ‘knock out’ by hurricane Irma and Maria.
The day before Hurricane Maria demolished Puerto Rico, Sept 20, 2017, she destroyed the United States Virgin Islands, also called the America’s Paradise, a group of islands in the Caribbean that is located 40 miles (64 km) east of Puerto Rico. The U.S. Virgin Islands consist of the main islands of St Croix, St John, St Thomas and Water Island.
For some strange reason, the media coverage is almost non-existent. I’ve debated with this question for years, ‘If a tree falls in the forest, and there’s nobody around to hear, does it make a sound?’ I’ve flipped-flopped for years, “Yes, it made a sound and No, it didn’t.” But after the lack of coverage during and after the devastating effects that has crippled St. Croix by Hurricane Maria, I will never debate (with that question) again. Yes, if the tree fell in the forest, it made a sound. Even though there is lack of media coverage of this disastrous storm, yes, Maria wrecked St. Croix.
Let’s back track to Sept 6, Irma, a category 5 hurricane, arrived, hammered and ruined St. Thomas, St. John, the British Virgin Islands and other Caribbean islands. All lines of communications were lost while families and friends flooded social media with prayers and cries, just wishing they can hear one word about their love ones. Strangers wept as people posted frantic emotional messages about their love ones. No one cared if the person was black or white, female or male, Muslim or Christian, Straight or Gay, Democrat or Republican, Trump lover or Trump hater, the gift of life was in jeopardy and that’s all everyone cared about.
The next day, Thursday, Sept 7, not a social media post, not a telephone call, not even the two little blue checkmarks that normally appeared on Whatsapp was visible. Then on Friday, Sept 8, I received a Whatsapp message, “Hello my friends and relatives. I am fine and so are my daughters. The island is in ruin. Thank God… we are alive. The hospital is damaged and has to be abandoned. I am at work now but all the patients will be out by tomorrow. Thank for checking. Keep praying. Love you! Stan.” My friend (with whom I spoke) is a nurse in St. Thomas hospital and when I received his message, I was relieved that I finally received a message that there is still life on St. Thomas, but then water flooded my eyes, my fellowmen lives remain in jeopardy. I felt helpless and that’s the worst feeling. There is not an exact count yet, but Irma claimed some lives on St. Thomas.
Irma turned a world known travel destination, St. Thomas & St. John, into rubbles. The roof of the hospital was ripped off and water came pouring in. Emergency efforts began almost immediately to airlift patients from St. Thomas hospital to Puerto Rico and St. Croix respectively. While relief was on the way for the patients, the Crucian people felt the burning desire to do something to help their sister islands. St. Croix people began their rescue efforts and loaded boats with cases of bottle waters, foods, clothes, generators, and anything they could get their hands on, to transport to St. Thomas. The Crucians even set up temporary restaurants on St. Thomas to give the people hot fresh food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. On their way back to St. Croix, some people of St. Thomas and St. John were transport to St. Croix. Their efforts continued until the alarm sounded that a Category 5 Hurricane was in direct path to St. Croix with winds over 165 miles per hour.
The night of Sept 19 was the second longest night of my life. I stayed up crying all night, just imaging the destruction of Hurricane Maria. Blowing away galvanized roofs, breaking electrical poles, uprooting big mahogany trees, flooding people’s homes and shredding everything in her path. I started to relive 28 years ago when I witnessed Hurricane Hugo that visited and devastated St. Croix. At that time that experience was my worst. It was the longest night of my life. I was 15 years of age and I remember approximately 10pm when the roof just peeled off and within seconds all I saw were black skies and the sound of galvanize colliding in the gushing winds. My parents, 5 of my brothers and I remained close to each other as we ran to our other house that was unfinished. We hid behind the walls. Our house had a completed roof, but no windows or doors. And my dad didn’t board up the windows before the storm. After the hurricane was over, the roof for that house remain intact, thank God. That night my mom and I slept on a sheet of plywood on the wet cold concrete floor. The next morning, the island resembled the remains of a battle field. The entire landscape was rusty brown as if the entire island was set on fire by a malicious team of gangsters, houses turned into rubbles, trees broken from the base or uprooted. Curfew was enforced. I remember sitting on the steps waiting for the military truck to stop by and drop off food. I happily ran up the road and gladly told them the amount of people in my family and the soldiers gave me a box of well packaged food. We stayed out of school for approximately 2 months and more than 6 months without electricity and running water.
During those times, a tear never rolled down my eyes, all I wanted to do was survive. However, 28 years later, tears flooded my eyes, scared of the unknown and the frustrating part was there was no word on mainstream media that Hurricane Maria was directly hitting St. Croix.
Most of us on the mainland, tuned into CNN, FOX, ABC NEWS, but there was no word of St. Croix. As if St. Croix doesn’t exist. Yes, Maria devastated St. Croix and 2 days later, I found out that Maria also demolished the already devastated islands of St. Thomas and St. John. So, the question is, “If the media doesn’t report something, did it happen? Don’t think about it, let me answer the question, “Yes, Hurricane Maria destroyed the United States Virgin Islands along with Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands.”
On Sept 6, President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter that he spoke with Governor Kenneth Mapp of the Virgin Islands and ‘We are with you all!’ That was a message concerning Hurricane Irma. I am not sure if President Trump was informed about Maria hitting St. Croix, but either way, I want President Trump and the people of America to know that United States Virgin Islands (St. Croix, St. Thomas, & St. John) were demolished by the apple of IRMA and MARIA evil eyes.
The Virgin Islands are home to about 107,000 people, its population is made up of a diverse set of people who are predominantly English speaking.
I and other Virgin Islanders who are residing on the US (mainland), would like to plead for media coverage of this ravaged area which is a tourist destination that caters to over 2.6 million people who visit annually.
In conclusion, as a direct result of Hurricane IRMA and MARIA, many of the homes in the Virgin Islands were flooded and are missing roofs or have collapsed walls. Many roads are impassible due to flooding, fallen trees, and downed power poles. Many homes are without electricity and access to safe drinking water.
The Media is not only an important part of society, but it is the ‘watchdog’ who is responsible for giving hope to the voiceless. In this instance, they are absent. Why? WE need action NOW!
Note: This was not an article to complain but to explain the severity of the state of damage and the lack of attention for Americans in America’s Paradise.