When forecasters announced that Hurricane Dorian likely would pass through the Caribbean, Puerto Rico was the first place on everyone’s mind. After experiencing tragedy from Hurricane Maria in 2017, the island territory of the United States had been struggling to regroup. But then Dorian decided to switch its route, instead targeting the Bahamas, an independent nation 50 miles off Florida’s Atlantic coast.
While it’s common knowledge that the Commonwealth of the Bahamas is a country in the West Indies, many don’t realize that it’s made up of 700 individual islands. Of these, 30 are inhabited. And out of 30 islands, two were severely damaged by Dorian.
These two islands, Grand Bahama and Abaco, are known as “family islands” to those who live in the nation’s capital, New Providence. Family islands enjoy a reputation among locals as being less stressful than the capital and are seen as an escape from the hectic world.
But when Dorian slammed into both islands last week, the idea of escape took on a whole new meaning. With winds of up to 185 mph, this Category 5 hurricane was among the strongest Atlantic storms ever recorded. Buildings collapsed, cars were submerged, and children became orphans.
I am a senior at Ohio University studying journalism and communication. I also happen to be a Bahamian citizen. When I realized Dorian’s strength, I immediately became frightened for my family. While the majority of family members live on New Providence, I knew many who chose to stay in Grand Bahama and Abaco. But it was difficult to reach everyone because since Dorian’s arrival last week (and seemingly never-ending stall over the islands), electricity and phone lines were non-existent in the hard-hit areas. Therefore, I had no idea how everyone was truly doing and had to rely on social media to get what bits of information were available.
As a Bahamian, my soul was crushed to see videos of my people covered in despair, searching for ways to escape the chaos around them. Photos of dead bodies and pleas from residents for their missing loved ones were very hard to watch. It was as if the two islands I had grown up understanding as part of my home had disappeared without any warning. It was as if my home had been invaded and all my rights of ownership were obliterated.
However, the rest of the world didn’t see it that way. Last week, Walt Disney Company (which operates the Disney Cruise Line) announced it would donate more than $1 million to relief and recovery efforts in the Bahamas. Celebrities including Rihanna and Ludacris vowed to give donations to assist in rebuilding the country. Photos of the beauty of my country began trending on social media and hashtags like #242strong became common.
I remembered then that my tiny country, consisting of fewer than 400,000 people, had the power to unite people because Bahamians are strong and resilient. We have experienced tragedy before, we have felt hopelessness, and we have been scared about our future. But we have always managed to regain our strength and stay afloat. We have created Grammy award-winning artists, Olympic athletes and world-renowned doctors.
Because of our tenacity and authenticity, people from across the globe can mourn when we do and smile when we do. The amount of international help received thus far has been heartwarming and goes to show how powerful the world would be if everyone truly came together to better the Earth.
Isaiah 43:2 says, “When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.” The islands have been seriously damaged, the people have been saddened, and the country has come to a standstill. But the Commonwealth of the Bahamas has not been destroyed, and by the Grace of god, it never will.