A short time ago, Hurricane Matthew’s potential path was veering uncomfortably close to the Cayman Islands. Our population was hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst.
Since then, the hurricane turned to the north — and turned deadly — killing more than 100 people, most of them in Haiti but also elsewhere in the Caribbean. As we went to press with this editorial, the hurricane was in the process of pummeling Florida’s east coast. The cumulative loss of life and destruction of property from Matthew won’t be calculated for some time, and the recovery will take far, far longer.
Along with the rest of humanity, we in Cayman will send our prayers, empathy and material assistance to the victims of the hurricane. Cayman has experienced the cataclysmic consequences of a major hurricane at much too near a distance, that is, firsthand.
Cayman’s infrastructure is far superior to that of Haiti. (Sadly, what country’s isn’t?) Very few, if any, of our residents were forced to endure through Hurricanes Ivan or Paloma within makeshift tents or temporary shelters, at the peril of murderous floods and mudslides. Although we can say that we have witnessed the terrible majesty of Mother Nature at the apex of her fury, we can only imagine the hellishness of contending with that infinite power without the bulwarks of concrete, generators, or a functional emergency assistance system.
But it is because we have had our own modest taste of suffering from storms, that we as a country take additional pride in offering our islands and our facilities for the benefit of brave people rushing into the aftermath of Matthew, as well as some who evacuated before the hurricane struck.
Over the past several days, Grand Cayman’s Owen Roberts International Airport has been host to a contingent of some 100 United States Marines and soldiers, and nine military helicopters, preparing to move supplies into the devastated portion of Haiti. The spectacle of Black Hawks, Chinooks and Super Stallions landing at and taking off from the airport caused many residents (including the denizens of the Compass newsroom) to turn their gaze skyward in admiration, and generated impressive images we featured prominently in the newspaper and on our website.
In less visible fashion, the airport also welcomed the arrival of seven commercial jets from Bahamasair, the Bahamas’ national airline — along with pilots, flight crew and family members. Again, Cayman is most pleased to be able to be of some assistance to people affected by this natural disaster.
At this point, let us highlight the efforts and professionalism of the Cayman Islands Airports Authority as officials opened Owen Roberts to our guests on short notice. We’d like to extend special thanks to Airports Authority spokeswoman Kafara Augustine for making the necessary arrangements for our journalists to gain access to the U.S. military personnel and get close enough to take the photos of the helicopters we mentioned above.
Although on this editorial page we have clashed with the Airports Authority on topics such as jetways and parking lots, we do recognize the authority’s performance under exceptional circumstances and officials’ demonstrated commitment to keeping the community informed, in the public interest.
Our officials have enabled our jurisdiction to put our “Cayman Kindness” on public display and to provide some assistance that will have a measurably positive impact on our regional neighbors which, unlike Cayman, did end up receiving “the worst” from Hurricane Matthew.