Chuane Fagan, recent graduate of Holy Faith Convent, Trinidad was uprooted from her home in Dominica, in the aftermath of the terrible destruction of Hurricane Maria last year 2017. Below, she shared her experienced with us at Caribbean Insight.
My Hurricane Experience
In my lifetime, I have only experienced two hurricanes, hurricane Dean and hurricane Maria. The hurricane Dean hit my home island, Dominica, on the 17th of August, in the early hours of the morning and the rain endured until three that day. Shops were closed, employees sent home and the electricity disconnected, so there was little entertainment for a little five-year-old. Towards the latter end of the hurricane, my siblings and I bathed and fetched water outside in the rain. That was one of the most enjoyable memories with my siblings that I can recall. The 2007 category two hurricane did absolutely nothing to me, my family nor our dwelling. Between August 17th 2007 and September 17th 2017, I went on believing that all my house, family, my life was hurricane proof.
On the 18th of September, I was rudely corrected, when hurricane Maria hit my island, ravaging everything in its path including my house, family, my life.
Approaching the Lesser Antilles as a category one hurricane, hurricane Maria was spotted and almost immediately, a hurricane warning was in effect for the island of Dominica and a few of her neighbouring islands. The hurricane was taken very lightly, although schools and all commercial intuitions were closed, and all employees sent home at noon, it was not until Hurricane Maria had evolved into a category 5 within 18 hours that people started to panic. Each hour that her wind speed grew, she crept her way to Dominica, like an unstoppable bogeyman.
The people were frantic, the radio stations buzzing with hurricane tips, dos and don’ts before, during and after any hurricane, and of course the much-needed updates for to the progression of the hurricane. My family, however, did not panic. I think it was due to our great faith in the strength of our house. It’s funny that even in times of despair man’s first instinct is to put his trust in his materials things. At about 8 o’clock on the 22nd of September 2017, Hurricane Maria landed on the island of Dominica.
At my house, the atmosphere was light, warm and airy, regardless of the loud crashes and bangs surrounding us.
My brother and best friend cracked jokes and I remember thinking to myself “Everything will be alright. We are invincible.” Those thoughts crumbled as I looked up to a shaking ceiling. The ceiling that I’ve known all my life rattled like a toy in a baby’s hand. I realized then that this hurricane was for real.
Flying objects crashed into our windows, leaving gaping holes for water to enter. My father decided that it would be safer downstairs since the ceiling in the living room was caving in on us. We all made our way towards the kitchen, the shortest way downstairs. The roof and ceiling became detached and the floor was drenched in water and broken china.
Despite everything that was happening around me, what broke my heart the most was seeing my father struggling against the wind to push open the back door. He fought with that door for several minutes, which in all the chaos, felt like slow torturous hours. When he finally got that door open, we faced howling winds and objects flying haphazardly in the air, not to mention, pouring rain, whilst climbing down the wet, tiled stairway.
When we entered through the door downstairs, our unsuspecting feet plunged into what seemed like a sea of water. The water met a 5’10” door frame at the knee that soaked all the documents I had stored in my desk. Our first instinct was to bail the water out of the house, but after hours of futile attempts, we decided to allow the water to collect until morning when the damage could be assessed properly.
That night my dad and brother laid on tables and countertops while my grandmother, two sisters, niece and I laid on one cold bed, huddled together until three in the morning when we were sure the hurricane had passed. The entire country was in darkness, making it impossible to navigate our once familiar yard. With the narrow light given by my sister’s phone, I saw that upstairs, where I had spent all of life in was far beyond recognition. I couldn’t believe it. The roof was non-existence, what remained of the ceiling was sunken, the furniture destroyed, our clothing saturated with water and all our electronic devices were wet and non-functional.
Needless to say, that many other houses and buildings suffered the same fate, including my school. Even after considering all the horrors that people endured during the passage of Hurricane Maria, I still believe the aftermath was far worst. Dominica was a lawless state. The people looted without mercy, breaking in stores and trashing the furniture inside. As a result, people who did not loot, could not go to the store to buy food supplies. The few stores that actually opened for business would hold lines of people as long as the street, sometimes, even longer. Eventually, a state of emergency was declared under which a nationwide curfew was issued and strictly enforced. This was in an effort to regain order and subdue the people. The capital city, Roseau, was crawling with police officers from many Caribbean nationalities. Even as the capital city was plagued with dust and sand, the police worked 24/7 the ensure a safe Dominica. My parents later made the difficult decision of sending me to Trinidad to complete my high school education, fearing that with all the lost time, I would not be prepared to sit CSEC exams. I’m presently in Trinidad, counting down the last days until I return home to Dominica.