I think that many people on Grand Cayman have forgotten what it was like in the weeks that followed Hurricane Ivan just four years ago.
I can’t say I blame them, but from my perspective, having lived through Hurricane Paloma on the Brac a bare nine weeks ago, perhaps it is time to draw to the attention of the movers and shakers (and everyone else that doesn’t seem to understand) in Grand Cayman exactly where we are on the Brac.
But first a word of thanks; we couldn’t have gotten through the early post-storm days without the overwhelming support we received from everybody on Grand Cayman – both public and corporate, individuals and non-profit organisations. And we are extremely grateful for that support.
At this time we are recovering, but it is a slow process. Perhaps not as slow as after Ivan, but slow nonetheless. Many people are still without power, many, many more without land-lines; this despite heroic efforts by our utility companies to hook us back up.
There are still many people who are virtually homeless, entire families bunking into one bedroom shacks because their homes have been destroyed, others making do in the patched up rooms of their semi-destroyed homes.
Possessions — family heirlooms, old love letters, photographs, TV sets and bedspreads — gone. Blue tarps on hundreds of roofs; generators running through the night consuming gas at CI$3.30 a gallon; hotels closed. The muted roar of dehumidifiers trying to cope with the damp and the creeping mould. Sound familiar?
And the barge couldn’t make it for several weeks because the sea was too rough for it to dock. That meant we have had to wait for our building supplies before we could start our rebuilding process. We don’t want for food – but it was rough for at least a month after Paloma with only Kirkconnell’s operating and flying in supplies. Our other grocery stores – Billy’s and the Marketplace – trashed. They’re open now – but the prices. Oh my!
That’s the physical side, the plant so to speak. What of the Brackers themselves?
I see stress on just about every face I meet. The shock of the devastation that we have to face every day, to drive past on our way to and from our work and families. Lined faces, easy tears, the occasional cracked voice. Exhaustion. Remember post-Ivan, Grand Cayman, we are made of flesh and blood, not steel. Think of all the elderly Brackers who have died since Paloma. The storm that was too much for them.
So, to my point. I have observed that in just about every profession here we are being asked to perform as if nothing has happened.
Today I heard of one institution to which e-mails were being sent, and the folks over there couldn’t understand why nothing was being done.
The Brac branch didn’t have a land-line-still doesn’t. Hello over there. There are many, many more similar examples, which space does not permit me to list.
An organisation was asked why it was still using a generator to provide power for essential lighting. This was costing money – it needed to be stopped. Hello: there was no power to these particular lights because they were miles away from the nearest live pole. The generator was put there in the first place for just this kind of emergency. To me this was a no-brainer, but apparently not to the person in Grand Cayman who ordered it.
I guess that’s what we’re seeing over here. No brainers. I know it was awful after Ivan. I know because many people have told me, especially those who sought haven on the Brac afterwards. I was here then. I heard first hand and in great detail what everyone went through, and I know people want to forget it.
Fine. But just remember that we are going through that now, nine weeks after a Cat 4 Hurricane and its consequential damage.
Just remember that and please do not ask us to do what is for us, the impossible.
Think about what you are doing before you ask it. And, by the way, one way to help us through the stress and trauma we have been going through is to send counsellors over to enable us do just that. This is what we need, not more work that we cannot do, or that will cause us further physical and psychological problems in the future.
Martin A. Keeley