One thing is clear with Irma. She was more powerful than Hugo and Marilyn. She punked my family into running downstairs before anything major even happened. But her freight-train sounding winds were only slightly less deafening than upstairs, and the battering-ram like gusts frightening. You could feel the house vibrate as it withstood the impact of the gusts. Outside of an earthquake I’d never felt the house vibrate before, thinking it could collapse at any moment. Although it wasn’t an earthquake, it was such a strange phenomenon to associate with a hurricane.
A multitude of thoughts ran through my mind. Could this be the end? What kind of juggernaut hurricane is this? Is there some evil mad-scientist in a lab somewhere with an axe to grind marvelling at his creation? Is God punishing mankind for our transgressions? Immediately I hugged my daughters. I told them I love them and that everything will be alright, my attempt at masking the true reality. For it looked as if the door was bleeding water.
The rain beat through the screens so forcefully I thought my mother’s window would blow in. I ran down the hallway, only to notice two of the shutters were completely gone. But there was nothing I could do. The remaining shutters were flailing violently and banging against the porch. I felt defeated, helpless against Irma’s wrath, and in a perpetual state of vulnerability. BAM!!… BAM!! is what we heard constantly along with other unidentifiable thumps and clangs. The first few panels of plywood on the porch roof were gone, the others threatening to go. More shutters were torn off hinges and all. Then a voice said look up. It was a huge piece of galvanize flying effortlessly through the air.
Irma was having her way with it like a candy wrapper. I knew then that Irma was causing catastrophic damage. Gazing across the hill, I counted seven roofs gone. I checked ours once more, it was in-tact. Heading back downstairs dejected, I knew we were headed back to post-Marilyn life. We were in Irma’s belly, but spared by God’s mercy.
Twelve days later it was de ja vu. Maria was approaching. I vehemently wished this was just a bad dream. Around 5:30 we started feeling hurricane force winds. Irma felt like a bad dream, but Maria felt like a horror movie. Lightning lit up the night sky followed by deafening cracks of thunder, freight-train sounding winds, and battering-ram like gusts mirroring Irma. With every gust, I felt my stomach twist more and more. What I saw next is etched in my memory forever. Maria was playing tug of war with the shutters, pulling at them as if ghosts were on each side doing it themselves. It was like that piece of paper the vacuum couldn’t suck up completely, getting sucked in halfway only to be pulled out, then sucked up halfway again. Finally, the shutters gave way, tossed into the pitch black stormy abyss.
Moments later the sound of breaking glass made us flee the bedroom, and head downstairs. Irma passed through for a cup of coffee, but Maria stuck around for a four-course meal, the minutes ticking away like a slow IV drip. The winds didn’t let up till after 6 a.m. I didn’t get a minute of sleep due to adrenaline and the cringing sounds that echoed throughout the night.
As I surveyed the house I realized we were spared again. The house roof stayed on, but we lost the remaining panels of plywood over the porch, scattered in the yard along with debris. On the radio, they played “The storm is over now” by Don Campbell. A fitting song for the moment that comforted our consciences, and re-affirmed our faith in the Almighty.
We made history for all the wrong reasons, surviving two category five hurricanes in twelve days. Whether it was God’s mysterious plan or the work of a deranged mad scientist, we had survived and said prayers for the unfortunate. Every so often mother nature reminds us that she is the ultimate force to be reckoned with.
These two hurricanes will be studied and talked about for decades. They have become part of our story, of who we are as a people. Our faith and resiliency tested to an extreme end.
Lloyd Maynard, St. Thomas