The St. John Community Foundation has released “The St. John Recovery Book: A Community Perspective on Hurricanes Irma and Maria,” a 112-page, locally produced, full-color book that examines how the devastating 2017 hurricane season affected the island of St. John.
“The St. John Recovery Book” will retail at Freebird Creations, Pink Papaya, Papaya Cafe & Book Store, Bajo el Sol Gallery & Art Bar, Connections East and St. John Community Foundation, according to a news release issued on Thursday. The cost is $60 for the hardcover and $45 for the paperback. It also will be available online at the STJ Community Foundation and Freebird Creations websites.
Profits from the book’s sales will be used for recovery and resiliency efforts through the foundation, including support for development and programs of the Foundation’s Business Alliance of St. John, the news release said.
The Foundation’s Long Term Economy Recovery Group originated the idea for the book as a way to help visitors understand the true severity of the island’s destruction at the hands of hurricanes Irma and Maria.
“Once power returned at our store, Freebird Creations, people would come in and constantly ask how we did during the storms,” said Long Term Economy Recovery Group team leader Barbara Hervey. “I still get questioned today, meaning I have to relive those unsettled emotions multiple times a day, which just continues the trauma. I came up with the idea of a book to help people understand what we were dealing with. Now, we have something tangible we can show visitors that tells the story of the storms’ aftermath. I hope it helps people understand our journey, and I hope it helps our community heal.”
Written and edited by freelance writer/editor Andrea Milam, “The St. John Recovery Book” focuses on how the storms affected various facets of island life, from communications and transportation to schools and government buildings and services. Residents share their heart-wrenching personal survival stories, and the book features remembrances of two St. John residents who lost their lives at sea during the hurricanes.
“’The St. John Recovery Book’ is so much more than just a book,” said Jon Eichner, the Foundation’s director of operations and interim executive director. “This project celebrates the survivors of ‘Irmaria,’ honors those lives lost and praises all the hands that worked tirelessly to build this island back to what it is today. It displays our resiliency, buoyancy and determination to persevere. It demonstrates the unity of our community and gives an idea of why we are called Love City. We are honored that we were able to play a part in this venture and would like to thank all those who came together to make this a success.”
The stories are accompanied by images of the devastation and moments of hope, captured by several island photographers and residents who were on the ground in the days before, during and after the storms. The book was designed by Lee Stanciauskas, a longtime resident and owner of St. John Printing + Design.
“Immediately after the storms, everyone I came into contact with sought to connect with one another by sharing their experiences,” Stanciauskas said. “It was an emotional time full of tears, grief and sometimes relief. When I was approached by SJCF to work on the book, I thought this was an opportunity to use my expertise as a graphic designer and printer to do something for St. John, to put together the stories and photos to share with those who experienced the storms firsthand and with those who watched anxiously from afar. I’m proud to have been a part of this project, working alongside Barbara and Andrea who were great partners.”
“This was hands-down the most difficult project I’ve ever been a part of,” Milam said. “I had to jump headfirst into a painful subject I thought I’d neatly tucked away and left behind in the past, and I had to ask those who were here for the storms to do the same. People became emotional while sharing their stories with me, and many tears were shed as I wrote. But I am beyond proud of the finished product – an in-depth look at what St. John went through in 2017 that might help those who weren’t here to understand what we went through while raising money for ongoing hurricane recovery.”