Spirit of the People
Published in January 2020 by Don Anderson @ Legato.
During the daylight hours of September 6th, 2017, Hurricane Irma arrived with force across the hilly, eastern-most British Virgin Island (BVI) called Virgin Gorda. All went quiet as the eye passed then Irma thundered again with winds reaching 240 miles per hour and torrents of rain.
Neighbouring Necker Island, owned by Sir Richard Branson, also suffered significant damage.
It's now been two years since Irma. Barbara and I just got back from Virgin Gorda where we heard many stories of both survival and loss from the locals:
- Our friend Finey from Dive BVI described using the quiet time between the high winds of Irma to depart her roof-damaged home and cross the street to reach her sister's apartment, which was still intact.
- Kinto stayed in his ground-floor apartment in Gun Creek below two floors of ruined apartments. He told us about the many challenges in the weeks right after Irma when it rained almost daily. Kinto lost his dream job: operating the snorkeling boat of the Bitter End Yacht Club when the mostly-wooden buildings and docks crumpled to a pile of destruction under the low pressure power of Hurricane Irma. Today, Kinto still greets everyone with a friendly smile and warm eyes that portray his happiness for life, not the losses.
- Gail the handyman and his roommate leaned against a lone bedroom wall after the roof was lifted from the top of their house. They had to walk over the mountain to reach the home at the other end of Virgin Gorda for which he was already doing the maintenance and yard work. Along with eight other people, Gail was offered to moved into that house and the owner let them stay there for months without charge.
No lives were taken during the day that Irma came and went, mainly because the disaster struck during daylight hours. But post-disaster stress and fatigue took the lives of several islanders in the days and weeks that followed. Many “belongers” departed for families down-island while many stayed back to help begin the cleanup and restoration.
Some of the very wealthy islanders stepped up to help in many important ways. One provided the large, truck-loading shipping containers needed to remove the rubble, while another offered an $80 wage to any person willing to do a day's work cleaning up the streets or helping out the needy. Local restaurants Chez Bamboo and CocoMaya opened their commercial kitchens and hearts, cooking meals for everyone over those next few weeks.
The "spirit of the people" focused on a desire to look forward, dig in, help out and rebuild. The leaders of each community walked their talk and provided invaluable, hands-on guidance. They worked hard towards helping every person find a bit more happiness and progress each day. Now that's a legacy!
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