Thank you if you were one of those who wrote to commiserate with me about the loss of my happy place, and to express thankfulness that I wasn’t on my beautiful island on Wednesday this week when it was totally devastated by Hurricane Irma. Writing is so helpful for me to order my thoughts and emotions. Trying to get my head around it this morning, here’s what I wrote.
The place I love most in the world, the Caribbean island of Saint Martin/Sint Maarten, the place I have been working towards living for at least six months of the year since my first visit in 2006, has been completely devastated by Irma, twenty two years to the very day since Luis did the same thing – a strange and awful quirk of fate – and he was only Cat 4.
I have been watching all my SXM friends on FB, and they number many after all these years, lose everything they own. Loss of life has so far been minimal, thank God, but every soul counts. Communities like this are robust and they will rebuild, but it will take them a very long time. Meanwhile, the things we take for granted will be missing from their lives for weeks or even months including wifi, electricity, clean drinking water, health and safety as a matter of course. The most vulnerable people at the bottom of society’s queue will suffer most of all, indeed they may never recover.
The people of The Friendly Island are strong, they are looking out for one another, relief supplies are already in transit to the island and, of course, it is not the only one affected. But Irma isn’t done yet, and Jose is coming up fast behind.
This has been impossibly hard to watch from afar and yet not really any compensation either that I wasn’t on the island. I really love that place, it is my happy place and it is gone. For now. The photos and videos on social media are deeply sad and I shall stop devouring those now. It is too painful.
Kind and caring friends have written to me from all over, but the strange thing about life is that I could have been there and come to no bodily harm myself whilst I am all too aware that some suffer serious accidents without ever leaving their own homes, hospitalised in England for falling over while putting their trousers on (!) or drilling themselves doing a weekend’s DIY! That knowledge isn’t a compensation either yet, but it’s in the mix.
You wonder why people live in risky places, in hurricane zones, and on fault lines and so on, and it isn’t part of the island’s charm for me, like say a boyfriend who’s a gorgeous Bad Boy whose middle name is trouble with a capital T and who you just know instinctively is going to lead you to inevitable heartbreak. But the heart wants what the heart wants and I just fell in love with SXM and now she’s struggling.
I wonder what I can do to help? I wonder what amazingly awesome thing will happen for them all today? Dear God, they could use a handful of miracles right now, please.
Here’s a favourite photo of my beautiful island taken in happier times. I am sure those times will come again.