I don't know how many people still follow this blog, considering I've slacked and not updated it in a year. I intend to backlog the last year with picture highlights. However, I felt very strongly that I needed to do a special post regarding Hurricane Irma and our beloved St Maarten.
As I'm sure many of you know, through the news or seeing my constant posting on Facebook, our beloved island home has been completely devastated by Hurricane Irma. St Maarten took a direct hit from Irma, which had sustained winds of 185mph with gusts over 220mph! The pictures and videos of all the places we spent so much time are just heartbreaking. Fortunately, we have heard that our friends on the island are all safe, praise the Lord! Some sustained minimal damage, some tremendous damage, but all are alive! We know the island will rebuild and the reasons we love it will remain. The island is filled with great people and a great spirit of resilience, so please don't just believe that it is all bad based on the terrible actions of some. I will share some pictures here, but please look on my Facebook for more (all are borrowed off local island FB pages, so I will not take any credit). I will also include a list of reputable organizations to donate to, for the long recovery and rebuilding process that will take place.
Some people may be wondering why this has affected us (especially me) so profoundly. The first few days, it was all about getting word that friends were safe. Communication was incredibly limited and it took several days to hear about everyone. In addition to worrying about friends, it has been heartbreaking to see a place we lived for 2 years destroyed. We actually first visited St Maarten on our honeymoon cruise. I bought a ring there that I have worn everyday for 8 years. We moved to the island just before our first anniversary. We've celebrated anniversaries, birthdays, Thanksgivings, and many other events there. We had friends and family visit. I see pictures of where we spent our first anniversary dinner and it's gone. I see pictures of friends apartments, gone. Pictures of places we shopped, dined out weekly, watched movies, all gone or severely damaged. Our favorite dive company, destroyed (thankfully not the boats!). We made friends with many local people, many of whom I do not have contact with anymore but enjoyed seeing so much when we returned for graduation; we have no way of knowing if they are ok. We returned for 3+ weeks for Owen's medical school graduation, and it was just like coming home! I feel like we grew so much during these years, as individuals and a couple. This is where I did my first 5k, first triathlon, and gained a love of competing in races! This is where we learned to scuba dive and helped our friends occasionally with their dive company. This is where we were on the radio every Friday morning with our fellow Nutmeggar and good friend, Doctor Soc (whom we gave that honorary doctor of "radio-ology" to). This is where Owen began his calling to pursue medicine. This is where I was baptized, in the waters of our favorite beach/our backyard. The island was the inspiration for our puppy's name, Kona, meaning leeward wind in Hawaiian, St Maarten being a Leeward island. St Maarten is the place we've lived the longest in our entire marriage, and still feels like home. This is where we made new friends, both with other student couples and locals, as a couple, away from home and bonded over the challenges and beauties of living on a tiny Caribbean island.
This was our life, our home, and we loved it. To see it this way and especially to be here, not able to help, is just so hard. I hope to get down there when it is safe and they allow relief workers in, to help rebuild our beloved island. For now, I leave you with a request to keep the people of St Maarten in your prayers. This will be a very long and difficult recovery process, but we know the people of St Maarten are strong and will rebuild stronger and better than ever! Here are some ways to help:
Samaritan's Purse (call 828.262.1980, hopefully you'll be able to direct it specifically to St Maarten, not just Irma in general)
Team Golden Dog (helping local animals, shelters, and vets)
Rotary Club SXM (Shelter Box)