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September 2017

VI Strong

Yes, I have stories to tell about our brush with Irma. In fact, they are nearly ready for publication. But they are “first world” stories—La Luna, EW, and I are just fine. We have moved back aboard (thanks to three incredible friends), and we are able to enjoy most of what St. Augustine has to offer. Certainly, there are people here and many others elsewhere in Florida who have lost much or all due to Irma,  Our focus, however, is on those in the Caribbean Islands. Snark post to news

Those who follow me on Facebook may have seen my snarky post to major U.S. news sources. When we lived in St. Thomas and worked with tourists we were amazed at the general lack of knowledge about the islands they were visiting. It was both annoying and humorous. Bless their hearts.

It’s no longer funny. U.S. Citizens need our help. Geoffery Smith lives in St. Thomas, works on the island for a dive company, and is a frequent and welcome performer at Tickles Open Mike night, where we met him. He has given me permission to share this “wherever you want to, with anyone you can”, because he wants everyone in the U.S. to know.

 

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Geoffrey Smith

8 hrs ·

I have been a resident of St Thomas, USVI for nearly 15 years. We are indeed part of the United States, which sadly, is often forgotten.


We are your teachers, your doctors, your neighbors, your brothers, and sisters. We are military veterans, we defended your shores in WW2 against German U-boats, defending the mainland, yet remain in its constant shadow. We still defend you, we have served in the Middle East and we will continue to do so, where ever we are called. For we are Americans just like you.


We obey US law, we fly the Stars and Stripes and have shed the same blood as you for our country. Yet we cannot vote for the president nor have a congressional voice, yet we are still proud Americans. We are also Virgin Islanders, we have a rich and diverse culture that spans all races, religions, creeds. We have every walk of life here. We are accepting of all people, if you are accepting of us you will be welcomed into our island family. That is what we are, we are a family and we watch out for one another.


Mainlanders and tourists from around the world flock to our little slice paradise we have built for ourselves on these tiny rocks in the middle of the ocean. When you come here on your cruise ships or your week vacation, you come and take your pictures and go to Magen's Bay. You get that snapshot of the perfect sunset. You see our pastel-colored houses and sailboats dotting the harbor. 

Months later when it's snowing out you'll look back at your little reminders to feel better and remember our little paradise.

On September 5th, 2017 those pictures changed.

We finally have been recognized by the media, only after being completely destroyed.  Our islands, your US Virgin Islands have taken a direct hit from the most powerful storm our nation has ever seen. Last night I along with the rest of my fellow Virgin Islanders, and Puerto Rican's went through Maria, another category 5 hurricane. We have endured natural disaster like the nation has never seen and we were alone. You raced to the rescue of those in Texas, you warned those in Florida to evacuate because a storm of unprecedented magnitude was on a direct course for you. Yet even as Hurricane Irma raced at us, even as we were being leveled back to the Stone Age, the only thing anyone heard about was the "possible" impact of Florida. The media was silent. It took 3 days for the media to get word to our friends and families around the country. It took 2 days for the first help to arrive. The media was silent.

stthomas

I ask you to take a look at the photos and your keep sakes from your vacation, remember the warm sand under your feet or the cold fruity drink you can't remember the name of yet you will never forget. 
Remember us.

Now take a look at the photos from our islands. It crushes one's soul to see the amount of destruction that has been set upon us.

Those sailboats you see in piles on shore and on the rocks, those are not just weekend toys or something we like to play with when we have time. 
They are homes.
They are businesses. 
They are some people entire lives.
Reduced to rubble.

We have nowhere to run, we know that there are no other states to drive to, there is no escape. So we do what we always do. We stock up on supplies, we board up the windows, batten the hatches and lock it all down.
Then we wait.

We hope for the best and plan for the worst. It is the only time you will ever hope all your preparations and hard work are for nothing. Many times they are, but sometimes they are not.

On September 5th, I along with so many others encountered a force of nature like the world has never seen. 
I could describe it to you in the greatest of detail, yet there is no way you could even grasp an understanding of what we experienced.

The following morning, when the sun rose on our broken islands when we could finally come out of hiding and see what little was left, we looked and looked. Some looked away, some cried and others just stared in silence. After taking a few moments to let the reality of it set in, we looked at each other and set out to do what we needed to be done.

We cut, chopped, and sawed our way out of our homes, driveways, and roads. What did we find? Everyone out doing the same. When we got to the roads, we looked at each other and said: "You work that way and I'll go this way." As we made our way we ran into the next group that had cleared their little area.

It was like this everywhere. 
There was no race, no religion, or class status. Just people. People helping people. During the storm we all prayed to our own gods, we all shared the same fears, and all bled red. In the Islands, we have what we call VIStrong.


We are a community and an island family, and despite our differences, we stand together and support each other.

We need your help, and we are not a people that ask for help. We take care of our own, but we cannot do this alone. We are islands if it's not here it has to come from somewhere. We do have incredible support from so many people stateside who are working night and day to get us the supplies we so desperately need. Flooding St. Thomas

The US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico need your help. There are so many ways you can assist us. There are groups of volunteers and websites organizing relief efforts. One of the best ways you can help us is to not forget that we are Americans too. 


We are on the front line for every hurricane that is on its way to the mainland. 
48 hours after hurricane Irma crushed us I heard on CNN how Americans were about to feel the impact of this incredible storm. Americans had felt its impact days before, I can assure you first hand that they had. We are still feeling it. Last night we were hit again by Maria, another CAT5 hurricane.

We are going to need your help in the days, weeks and months ahead but most of all we need you never to forget that we are Americans, we are the United States Virgin Islands.

We are VISTRONG

 

This moved EW and me to tears.  If you are moved and can help, here’s a list of organizations that I found on the blog “Women Who Live on Rocks”.

Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands

St. John Community Foundation

Virgin Islands Relief

Irma Relief for our Sister Islands

Love for Love City by Kenny Chesney

St. John Rescue

Art for Love City

Tim Duncan VI Relief

USVI “Adopt a Family”

United Way USVI

USVI Amazon Wish List

ReVIve the VI

 

PHOTO Credits. 1. My Facebook 2. USVI Facebook 3. NYTime article


The Not Me Syndrome

Oh, man.

No one deserves a hurricane. Not one island, not one state, not a city or town, and certainly not all their people. We are still reeling from the videos, stories, and photos of Hurricane Matthew and now we have Irma. We none of us “deserve” Irma. None of us want to meet her. All of us are thinking, “Not here.” “Not now.” “Not me.”

Please, Irma, no.

Irma, who is beating down on the Leeward Islands, may have a human’s name, but not a human’s heart or will. Irma just happens. She will happen to the Leewards, islands which you may know only know as a cruise ship stop or a great honeymoon location. We stayed for months in those islands. We have friends there and we fear for them. No, Irma, don’t go there.

Irma, who may make a bearing for the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico where we have even more friends as well as family. No, Irma, don’t go there!

In the US, on Monday, September 4, the Governor of Florida has already declared a state of emergency ahead of Irma. Oh, heavens, no. No, Irma, please don’t come here!

And there we get to it: the Not Me Syndrome.

All sources indicate it’s too soon to tell where Irma will impact the US. Will she turn north early or late, leaving Florida relatively unscathed and head to another state? While we would breath many sighs of relief for ourselves and our friends in St. Augustine, we would definitely worry about friends and family from Florida to Maine—or those along the Gulf in Louisiana and Texas.

So, no, Irma, please don’t come here.

But don’t go there, either!

Please.

Don’t.

As we all know, our thoughts mean nothing. We don’t have the option for “No Irma”. We don’t have any options except to get ready to leave—or to stay. We plan to leave, but where do we go?  That’s going to be decided by Thursday as we watch and wait and learn more about Irma.

Irma the relentless, growing monster of wind and rain and destruction.

No, Irma. Please. Not here. Not me. And not there, either. Not any of them, either.

 

NOTE: “Category 6” does not refer to a new level of storm, It’s the name of the hazardous weather column on Weather Underground.

 

Irma 9.4.2017