I don’t know if you have heard about St.Martin; it’s a beautiful Caribbean island in the French Antilles that is mostly untouched by pollution and overdevelopment and is still very wild, lush and verdant.
My family has a house there, and we go there at least once a year on vacation. Throughout all my lifetime, that I went to St.Martin, I saw such happiness among the people, and I thought, They live in a paradise, I would be happy too. On September 6th, 2017, their tropical paradise became a nightmare when Hurricane Irma hit, and it hit hard. Irma, bringing 180 mile-per-hour-winds, unprecedented storm surge, and record-breaking rainfall. It brought devastation to the whole island.
It’s hard to give an exact death toll for St.Martin. However, there were over 130 fatalities from Hurricane Irma. People were left without shelter, food, water, and medical services. Even St.Martin’s international airport was blown away.
This year we went back to check on the rebuilding of our home. On our approach into St. Martin, I heard my mom gasp as she looked out the small airplane window at what was now the unrecognizable St.Martin coastline. When we landed the airport was just a make-shift temporary hut where we had to go through customs.
When we went on a boat tour around the whole island, I was awestruck. Every which way you looked, there were sunken ships in the ocean and all of the shops had a big closed sign over their doors. As we went farther down, I saw the really bad part, some of the resorts that had been so popular and brought money to the island, were just rubble now.
Schools throughout the island were closed, denying children their education. Many people around the island lost their jobs and were now working long hours in construction to provide for their families. Also, the majority of the island didn’t have any wifi or cell service.
However, throughout all of these difficulties, the people still acted like they were in paradise.
Little boys that had lost their soccer stadium were still kicking around half-inflated soccer balls on patches of dirt barefoot. A woman that had a ship wash up through her house found a way to use the ship’s railings to hang up her laundry. That was when I realized the people aren’t happy because they live in a paradise. That might be one of the reasons, but they are happy because they are surrounded by the people they love and the company of all the well-known faces on the island.
If I was in that situation, I definitely wouldn’t have seen the best in it. I would just give up on soccer or try to push the boat back in the water. I could never be as strong and independent as the kids and adults that live in St.Martin. They truly are amazing. I couldn’t even live without wifi.
Mostly, though, I realized how strong the people of St. Martin are.
photo credit: The New Yorker