September 1st-3rd 2019, Is possibly a day that no Abaconian or Grand Bahamian will ever forget.
In the weeks after Hurricane Dorian I watched a man pack what was left of his home in the Lady Lake community. He had a small backpack and a duffel bag that he placed on top of his head. He proceeded to climb the hill I know he wished he lived on top of. It’s a hill that divided the new “Haves and Have Nots” in the Lincoln Green area. It’s where the water stopped. Everything that fell in the valley between my home on the hill and the eastern end of the island was destroyed.
Salt kills. Logically speaking, I know this, but standing at the edge of my property after the storm and looking out into the thin and mangled branches that were once a luscious pine forest, it was painfully clear to me that nothing survives after salt touches it.
The long Grand Bahama highway on which I learnt to drive was a sea of scorched earth, left that way by an angry ocean that overstayed her welcome. This burnt wasteland would turn out to be the new normal for many Grand Bahamians, especially those living in the East after Hurricane Dorian. Sitting down and speaking with my mentor Carmel Churchill and her husband Don Churchill, he let me know that “it’s only the edge of the worst.”
It was a “worst” I hadn’t seen as yet because of the way the roads leading to the eastern end of the island buckled. It’s a “worst” I wasn’t even sure I wanted to see in person because I didn’t think I should have the agency to describe how I feel about a community that I live in but where I’ve lost nothing. In the coming months I would know that to be untrue, I would come to find out that I have lost clean running water. I would come to the haunting realization that our country, our beautiful islands in the sun are just one wind blow away from consistent devastation and nothing about our plans or infrastructure is doing anything to safeguard us. I would come to realize that I have lost a sense of permanence.
There was a pulse of collective anger raging through my entire friend group. An understanding that The Bahamas had experienced its first cataclysmic Climate Event, one that resulted in 50,000 climate refugees seeking shelter in an already over populated capital. Nikita Shiel-Rolle, Executive Director of The Young Marine Explorers (YME) and Founder of The Cat Island Conservation Initiative (CICI Bahamas) said “ You killed my people.” She was referencing all heads of state that have conveniently denied climate science. She wanted to draw everyone’s attention to the various environmental conferences that showcase evidence and inevitably fail to act. What happened in the North is nothing short of a climate injustice. Small Island Developing States don’t emit enough CO2 to be held responsible for even a quarter of the world’s pollution but we’re paying the price tenfold.
The forests have grown back and people have tried to find some sense of normalcy but here in East Grand Bahama we still have brackish water. Water that has destroyed the appliances of many and will probably lead to a completely new crisis in the years to come. The Northern Bahamas, Grand Bahama and Abaco combined, are still dealing with homes that have yet to be rebuilt and the knowledge that they will never lay eyes on their loved ones again.
The Northern Bahamas is still dealing with the after effects of Hurricane Dorian during a global Pandemic. Many people are still processing the things and people they would have lost during the storm and they are now playing catch up to understand the things and people they have lost during this pandemic. On this two year anniversary of Hurricane Dorian, I remember the resilience of a people who looked the worst that nature had to offer in the eye, and still decided to move forward, still insanely determined to rebuild.