For many people around the world, the date 9/11 is synonymous with the attack on the World Trade Centre which claimed an estimated 3,000 lives. In Cayman, 9/11 holds a double meaning. It is also the anniversary of Hurricane Ivan.

Seventeen years ago, on 11 Sept., 2004 Hurricane Ivan ravaged Grand Cayman for 36 hours with category 5 winds, rains and storm surge.

Ivan left thousands without shelter, electricity or running water for months.

Nearly two decades later, some ghostly telltale signs of Ivan remain.

The Cayman Compass asked the community about their Ivan experience. These are some of their stories.

- Advertisement -

@kmonkrafta wrote: “My family and I went over to my uncle’s house to ride out the storm, unfortunately later that night as it intensified we had to evacuate due to the roof beginning to tear off and flooding. I remember looking out the car window when we drove to the shelter. There were coconuts, shingles and all sorts of debris flying through the air.

“When we finally made it to the large two-storey building, the people inside had to form a chain of people from the door to pull us all in. With little rations and few blankets, we made our beds in the corner of a large room filled with other people. The next day we all had to relocate to the 2nd floor due to flooding.

Hurricane Ivan caused catastrophic damage throughout Grand Cayman when it struck the island in 2004. – PHOTO: ALAN MARKOFF

“When the storm had finally past a group of looters armed with machetes tried to enter the building but were prevented by the men guarding the door. When it was finally deemed safe for us to leave, all the trees and green were gone. The streets were filled with water and some places severely flooded. Houses looked like they had been demolished. I remember all the houses near spots were just tile floors left.

“Thankfully all our loved ones were alright, and our home had sustained minimal damage.”

Monique Macdonald wrote: “36 hours of howling winds. 17 years later, strong storm winds still make me nervous. Seeing the devastation afterwards broke my heart. I also recall the sense of community in the days and months following where everyone just pitched in to aid in the recovery efforts. Caymankind at its best! Free champagne at Eduardo’s also helped!”

Tom McCallum wrote: “So many memories. A key one was how everyone was kind and helpful to each other afterwards. All the barriers of money, class, nationality fell away in the face of this disaster. People are people, but it took a disaster for us to remember that.

“Unfortunately, it didn’t last and the rampant materialism and social division not only restarted but has clearly got worse and worse. It saddens me that we couldn’t take that moment in time and learn.”

Local businesses like this one were left in shambles. – Photo: Deep Blue Images

Stacey Ford wrote: “I remember water coming into the condo through windows, doors, drains, the howling wind, and watching the sliding doors bough. We had no choice but to open the doors and let the water in order to get to higher ground.

“The storm lasted for what felt like forever and the devastation impacted us all. I was relieved to see friends and neighbors were all safe. We lost cars, roofs, interiors of homes and possessions but the aftermath brought out the very best in the community. Deckers grill was the bomb!”

@jdunzfam wrote: “Our 4 yr old and I were able to leave island before storm hit, back to USA but my husband worked for CUC/Mastec. [He] stayed on island working effortlessly and continuously to restore power to Cayman. He was so proud to do it, all those people/crew were! Six weeks later we returned with our baby living off generator for several weeks-the island was unrecognizable on our return. It was a bad experience, scary experience however it was humbling and we knew it’d all be OK island.”

Melanie Carmichael wrote: “We lost our first home in Ivan, so [we] planned and built an elevated home after the devastation and flooding experienced along the South coast. At the time, the CPA talked about encouraging similar development concepts for climate resilience. Sadly, that did not happen and we now have far bigger issues as development has continued for 17 years without an updated ‘plan’, forward-thinking or conscience.”

The aftermath of Hurricane Ivan in 2004. – Photo: Alan Markoff

Kirsten Luke Max McCord wrote: “Grabbing a bar of soap and washing in the rain in the days after the storm…we got running water back after 14 days. Power 7 weeks. Changed oil in gen every 100 hours. Grateful to have a generator.”

Michael Burtt wrote: “I lived at Ocean Club and was there for Ivan. Don’t even mention a storm coming unless u wanna see me start shake. I hate this time of year, cat on hot bricks.”

Orlene Ebanks wrote: “I was at parent’s house in North West Point standing looking out through the window watching the waves coming in. when I looked the Poinciana tree went, seas in the house, washer and dryer went out, one room [was] dry and that’s where all of us stayed in the until the storm was gone. God bless the Cayman Islands.”

- Advertisement -

Support local journalism. Subscribe to the all-access pass for the Cayman Compass.

Subscribe now