I was eight-years-old when Hugo hit.
We had just moved to the suburbs of Villa Hills to a home our parents built years before. I have literally grown up in two places at once, so if I say St. Croix is my home, it isn’t because it is “cool” or “unique” but a place that taught me survival and family. My chosen family is in St. Croix and being there understood that you did what you needed to and you didn’t rely on “outside” folks in times of crises. Thus, Hugo was different. At the time in 1989, I can still remember saying “good night” to our father who was staying at his drug store to weather the “supposed” Category 5 hurricane.
No hurricane had hit the island like that in 100 years and everyone expected Hugo to dissipate: they were wrong.
My mother stayed awake all night with landlines down and the news only covering the more popular Leeward Islands and Puerto Rico, as it headed to Florida. For three solid days, we heard nothing from our father – nothing. My sister and I were sent to our new Catholic white suburban school as if nothing was wrong while we waited for word if our father was alive from a place our neighbors didn’t even realize was part of our country. The only reason we simply found out he was alive was through a HAM operator. For three days we watched looting, desperation, and death on the television as if it was simply entertainment for the US as they didn’t realize that the USVI was full of their fellow citizens as well.
And that brings us to the past few days. In less than a week, St. Croix weathered two category five hurricanes which is quite simply unheard of. Luckily, we have new apps and social media so we have slowly been able to check in to find out if our friends and family are alive. ALIVE. We aren’t focused on housing damage (which there is), or flooding, or looting – we are trying to find out if our friends from childhood and chosen family are simply breathing and made it through the terrifying night. Do you know what a hurricane entails? As the eye passes over you a silence beckons but tornadoes also hit. It is eerie and terrifying, and as you lose your roof and bearings, and your ears fail to pressurize, you pray to everything and nothing that you will simply make it through the night. Just two days’ shy of the 18th anniversary of Hugo, my friends did that.
As I write this I still don’t know if my best friend is alive and made it through with her three kids. And please, don’t say “why don’t they leave?” That isn’t possible in the islands. You can’t simply drive 100 miles and have the weather pass and most people also can’t afford that.
My grandfather, Dr. John Naber, talked me into moving to Fort Thomas as I went through a painful divorce in 2011 and this wonderful community took us in and I have never regretted it. Now I beg this community, whom I have tried to benefit, to help my fellow Virgin Islanders at this desperate time. Anything we can use, any man power, any funds, and donations are not too small. I am taking a flight once the donations fill up to bring supplies such as water since that is the quickest method as possible. However, after that we are filling pallets to send full of essential items, items that fellow Crucians sent to St. Thomas after they were disastrously affected by Irma. Because that is simply what you do as a Crucian and I think fellow Fort Thomians understand that as well. My grandfather certainly did and if you don’t know me, know that Dr. John Naber respected our island and home and was the biggest fan. We appreciate anything and everything you can contribute. Blessings to you and thank you for reading.
Contact information for the St. Croix Foundation:
Smaller donations we are sending solo (PM me):
- Tarps (most needed now)
- Batteries (c and d especially)
- Solar light lanterns
- Cheap solar lights
- Bandaids (all sizes)
- First aid kits
- DEET spray
- Sanitary napkins
- Healthy snacks
- Water filters
- Water bottles
- Bungee cords
This is my homeland and I need help.
PHOTO: ABC. View of damage caused the day before by Hurricane Maria in Roseau, Dominica