“I’m just glad that none of them died on me."
Dorian hit our nation in the most catastrophic way. This unimaginable, destructive force of nature gripped our country and squeezed life out of it's shores. We watched Dorian’s horror unfold for four days and toggled between worry, tears and prayers for our country men in Abaco and Grand Bahama.
70,000 Bahamians were forced into dangerous, life threatening situations. Families, homes and lives were shredded by Dorian's weaponizing winds and raging waters.
Jimmy, a young husband and father that lived in Nassau but was working in Abaco at the time, shared his story of survival with Footprints.
Saturday August 31st, 2019
“What you doin’? The hurricane won’t be that bad. Why you wastin’ all your money?” Jimmy asked Marcus, his older cousin. He and his younger cousin laughed at Marcus for stocking up so heavily on food in preparation for the storm. Jimmy only purchased snacks and figured that it would be fine because this would be like every other hurricane and once the house was secured all would be well. Dorian was also expected to hit Marsh Harbour and not Treasure Cay where they were so it would come and go.
Sunday September 1st, 2019
The power was out but Jimmy was still able to stay in contact with family in Marsh Harbour and those that also lived further away in Treasure Cay. This continued until about 1pm and then contact was lost. Dorian's force was in full effect at the time.
At about 3pm the howls and whistles of the wind intensified. Jimmy remembers thinking "yeah this a really bad hurricane". That's also when he noticed a leak in the ceiling. Water was coming in from the roof that covered his room. The first thought was to place a bucket under the leak but soon after the need for more buckets arrived because the leak quickly turned into a down pour of water. “This ain't normal” Jimmy recalls telling Marcus but they did what they could at the time to remedy the situation.
About fifteen minutes later Jimmy went back to the room to check on things. As he opened the door the scariest view of the sky appeared. The roof of that room was gone, carried away by the gush of the wind from the opening of the door. Seconds later the entire roof ripped from it's frame and flew away.
“My aunt was terrified. She tried to run out of the house but the door wouldn’t open, the force from the wind had it sealed shut."
Jimmy recalls having to calm his aunt down. She was frantic and completely hysterical after the roof flew away. He went over to comfort her and at that moment a piece of ply wood fell from the ceiling’s frame. It was about to hit her. Jimmy pushed her out of the way and it hit him instead. He was hurt but played the pain and injury off because he didn't want his aunt to worry.
Jimmy’s mother was very close to her sister. They were inseparable and he knew that he had to protect her. "I could never be the one to tell my parents that something happened to her. Our family looks out for each other and I had to take care of her", Jimmy explained.
At this point they realized that their house was the only one standing. They saw cars thrown over and houses that had been completely destroyed. Neighbors were roaming outside because there was no where to go; the nearest shelter was more than an hour away on foot.
Over the next 24 hours Jimmy and his family stayed in the open structure to endure the storm, letting neighbors in when they could. This proved to be difficult because the wind kept the door shut only allowing it to open intermittently.
Jimmy admits that he was terrified but was determined to be there for his family and knew he had to keep everyone calm. He recalls telling them to stay in the corners of the house because it was less likely that objects from the ceiling and outside would hit them there.
Monday September 2nd, 2019
Around 7pm that evening the winds settled. Jimmy, his family and seven neighbors left the roofless structure to find safety. The nearest shelter was far away so they did the next best thing which was camp out in the family vehicles that were still parked out front. The four young men including Jimmy, went into the minivan and the others packed into the larger van. Both vehicles shook from Dorian's winds but they felt safe and figured that the storm would soon be over.
After talking for a bit they fell asleep. About an hour later Marcus woke them up saying "Y'all wake up! Y'all don’t hear water drippin’?" he asked. "Turn on the light from your phone and check" Jimmy told him. “Bey water comin....it comin! Water comin’ to us…it right there. Water comin", Marcus yelled.
Jimmy described what looked like a tsunami rolling with furry towards them. Seconds later there was a crash and the van rocked violently. "What was that?" Jimmy asked. "That's the water.....we under water." Marcus told them.
The wave had completely consumed the van. Each of them tried to open a door but none would open. Then all of them tried to open the right door together but it wouldn’t budge. They then tried the left door. One person pulled the handle and pushed while the others used all of their might to force the door open. This struggle went on for a few minutes.....then finally it OPENED! "Only God allowed that door to open" Jimmy shared while recounting this experience.
Once the door opened, he let the others swim out then he went last. Jimmy's plan was to swim to the top of the van and stand on it. He prayed that this would get him high enough to be out of the water. This worked and he was able to stand knee deep in the water. Once on top of the van he looked around to figure out where he would go next and that's when he saw his aunt screaming for her life.
“My only reaction was to go get her. She couldn’t swim and I wasn’t going to have to explain to my mother why or how she died right in front of me”.
Jimmy swam over to his aunt and told her not to panic and that everything would be okay. “I kept telling her that if anything was going to happen to us it would have happened already. People already died and we were still alive. There had to be a reason for that.” Jimmy admits that he didn’t entirely believe this himself but needed to assure her at the time to keep her calm.
He took her out of the van then placed his left arm under her chest and carried her while pushing through the water with his other arm. His feet paddled through the water to keep them afloat. They swam for some time then his aunt wanted to give up. "Just let me go” she told him, “No auntie if I let you go then I have to go too” was his response to her.
Jimmy continued to swim through the darkness. He had no clue where they were going but he just kept on swimming. That's when he heard someone yell “Anyone in the water? Higher ground over here. Come this way. A hill over here....come this way!”. Jimmy swam towards the voice and after a while was able to see arms waving from a distance. The water's current was moving in that same direction so he stopped swimming and just allowed the tide to take him. At this point, his aunt was in front of him laying on her back, supported by both of his arms. “I was tired but was able to keep her head high enough so that she could breathe." Jimmy explained.
They finally got near the hill and was able to grab onto a branch from a pine tree to stop them from going with the current. Jimmy then climbed out of the water and placed his aunt on the hill. They were finally safe but wondered where they would go now.. That's when they saw a house near by. The roof was gone but the structure still stood. It was good enough to provide the needed shelter until morning.
Tuesday September 3rd, 2019
“The weather cleared up but we were still surrounded by water. There was no food or drinking water for the thirty adults and two babies that were in the house but we were safe and grateful to be alive. Marcus and my other cousin were safe but I kept thinking about my other family members in Treasure Cay. I wondered if they were okay. The thought of them needing me kept nagging me. I just couldn't stay there. It didn't feel right that we were safe and I had no clue if they were as well".
Jimmy told the others that he had to go to find his family. “Bey you serious? That’s like two hours away.” Marcus asked him. But he didn’t care, he needed to make sure that his other family members were okay. So with a long sleeve shirt on and short pants he left the house to swim through dirty, deep waters to check on his other cousins.
Soon after leaving he realized that the other young men had joined him; his two cousins, one neighbor & three men that he had just met. At this time the water started to recede. In some areas they were able to walk (neck deep) and in other areas they had to swim. Jimmy recalls passing a large school bus filled with people. They all screamed at them “come back...come back. Don’t go out there”, but they continued on.
Hours later they finally got to the house where the cousins lived. It was gone, completely demolished by Dorian. Instead of panicking Jimmy knew the next best thing to do was to check the nearest shelter which was the Treasure Cay Hotel. His cousins would have left the house if it wasn't safe. When they got there half of the resort was damaged but survivors were safe in the other part of the hotel and Jimmy's cousins were among them.
"People were there crying. They made it through the storm but had lost family members and their homes. One young man loss a limb while trying to save his mother but she didn’t make it. She was actually lying in a yard near by".
Wednesday September 4th, 2019
Now that he knew that all of his family in Treasure Cay was safe, he wanted to go to Marsh Harbour to check on other family members. He didn’t know exactly how he would get there but started walking towards the settlement anyway. Eventually he caught a ride with strangers that were going in the same direction. Once he arrived, he remembers seeing swollen bodies in the road and near broken down buildings. He didn’t recognize many of them but there was one gentleman that he did recall seeing regularly. He didn’t know the man personally but each time he saw him in passing they greeted each other respectfully.
“I just remember tears streaming down my face. There were so many bodies. Many of them unrecognizable because their skin was bruised and battered. Death was everywhere; the land looked barren, homes were represented by piles of debris, dirty water ran through the streets and the feeling of despair filled those that were still there. It was not the Abaco that I had grown to love".
Thursday September 5th, 2019
By the following day the smell of decaying flesh was unbearable. The wind carried the foul aroma everywhere and it served as a constant reminder of Dorian's fury. Jimmy considered himself blessed to have pulled through this storm alive along with his family members.
Friday September 6th, 2019
Jimmy decided that it was time to go home to his wife and kids in Nassau. He was able to make contact with them so they knew that he was safe and desperately wanted him home. He was able to get to Nassau through a private rescue team that was helping survivors fly out. He was grateful to this team and volunteered to assist them as soon as he found out that they would be going to Grand Bahama to help with recovery efforts there. And sure enough Jimmy was on a flight to Grand Bahama a week later.
"Dorian has opened my eyes to what is really important and that is people not things. We often say this is my house, this is my car or my boat but we watched all of these things wash away. During the storm I remember hearing people scream 'God help me...God help me' and hoped that they were talking to him regularly. For me we should call on him often especially since he always wants to talk to us and he is what can keep us calm in bad situations". These were Jimmy's last sentiments regarding his experience.
For the heroes like Jimmy that selflessly put their lives on the line to save others during and after the storm, we salute you and say thank you for having a heart of service. May you be eternally blessed!
We extend our condolences to the families of those that lost their loved ones during the storm. May God's peace and presence fill your hearts and minds like never before. And may their legacies live on.
To the survivors, we could never fully understand what you have endured but as your fellow country men, we stand with you and come in agreement with your prayers of restoration. We will continue to support relief efforts that directly impact your process.
To our international donors, thank you so much for the support you have extended to our country. Thank you for bringing attention to our crisis. Thank you for actively contributing to the rebuilding of our nation. We feel your love and fully appreciate it!
We will rebuild. We will be fully restored.
March On Bahamaland!
About The Author
Earlene is a creative, avid traveler, project manager, actress, mother & believer. She recently ventured into blogging and launched Footprints with her co-founders in June 2019. Footprints is a collaborative and inspirational blog that gives writers the opportunity to share their life's truths.
Earlene said "My process to rebuild and remake the restored woman I am today has not been easy but with consistency & resiliency I've found a complete and fulfilled me. I'm ready to share my story. Journey With Me!".
You can follow Earlene & Footprints on Instrgram @FootprintsJourney
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