“My Address” by: Leanne Russell

Waving at Grief: Hurricane Dorian Three Years Later

I live on Churchill Drive. An unassuming name in an unassuming neighborhood. I live on a hill that some 10YS Family has jokingly deemed Mount Freeport. They call it that because it protected my family’s home during Hurricane Dorian. They call it Mount Freeport because, standing on it, you can look out for miles and see just how devastated and simply unlucky some families were. 

I once heard a man call Churchill Drive “the edge of the worst” because no matter where you went after my street, the devastation only worsened. 

“Mount Freeport” during Hurricane Dorian 2019. Photo Credit: Kiana Wallace-Whitfield.

In the three years since Hurricane Dorian disrupted the lives of those in Abaco and Grand Bahama, it feels like this year is the first year that grief is beginning to settle in for me. It’s a grief I didn’t feel I had an agency to. I didn’t weather the storm on the island, and I have a home; my small family of my mother and dog is intact. We are relatively whole. I should find nothing to grieve. But then I think about the suburb below Mount Freeport. 

The suburb of Lady Lake. 

Lady Lake has had the misfortune of flooding during every significant hurricane to hit Grand Bahama in the past 20 years. The suburb is quiet and a bit scattered, so if you were new to the neighborhood in 2019, you would have been unaware of the need to evacuate. You would have looked at the official mandatory evacuation list, recognized that your area wasn’t on it, and decided it was safe enough to weather the storm in the comfort of your home. 

Official Grand Bahama Evacuation list by NEMA via Social Media.
This version has since been deleted.

I should find nothing to grieve, but I often think about the nameless human beings of “The Mudd.” Names that time and history have lost. Names that will never make an official list, names that once meant something to families afraid to speak out for fear of persecution and the upheaval of their lives. I think about letters they wrote in their mother tongue and sent to their mothers back at home. They were more than likely letters that promised a better life and a little money in the following package they sent. Letters that spoke of their hopes, dreams, and knowledge that tomorrow would be brighter than any day they had ever known. I think of how those letters just stopped. 

There’s an intrinsic removal from reality that the capital seems to boast. It’s black mirrored in its resemblance. Try as I might to be optimistic about what intentions may have been behind the Hurricane Dorian memorials, I just can’t seem to climb the mountain of grief that simply exists. I lost nothing, and I cannot help but think of the people that lost everything, how they feel. How their brokenness may rise again to the surface laid bare by those who simply don’t care. 

While Nassuvians enjoyed their concert, some Grand Bahamians and Abaconians watched the weather in fear. They reread notes they thought would be their final words to loved ones. While the halls of Baha Mar were filled with people eager to see a glimpse of CeCe Winans, People in Grand Bahama turned on water that some are still not convinced is safe to consume, bearing scars of the salt that for two years pushed ruggedly through our pipes.

While those in Baha Mar scrambled to “grab something and wave,” Those in Grand Bahama and Abaco remember sitting on their rooftops or wading through water waving for an entirely different reason. Help. 

I fear there will never be a time when someone from Grand Bahama or Abaco thinks about Hurricane Dorian and doesn’t run the emotional gamut of sadness or anger.  

There will never be a moment when Grand Bahamians forget that they learned the concept of the power of a king tide during a full moon at the hands of the king tide and the full moon.

Hurricane Dorian victims deserve to be memorialized. I, however, want us to be honest with ourselves and admit that this week of events was performative at best and terrifyingly triggering at worst.