Life goes on. This is the most comforting, and yet hardest aspect to grasp post Irma. I walked through Target the other day, meandering the aisles and taking stock of the obscene amount of stuff filling every shelf (some of which I admittedly put in my cart). I could not stop thinking of my friends and fellow islanders on St. Maarten, BVI, USVI, Domenica and Puerto Rico who wait for hours and hours to get basic staples, who walk for miles to charge their devices and attempt to connect with loved ones…who’s lives have taken on a completely different purpose and weight, and for whom basic survival is a daily game. What would they think of this Target trip, I wondered? These are people for whom a roof, a shower and a flushing toilet are luxuries. Target? What a joke. But life goes on…
There are two camps of people who have emerged from this storm; those who lived through the horror of it (and by almost all accounts, it was absolutely terrifying) and those of us who are residents and watched from afar as the horror unfolded. The experiences for each – both pre and post storm – are different, but the end result is the same: Every single one of our lives have been changed forever. Many of us lost our homes and most all of our worldly belongings. Many of us lost jobs and businesses. Not a single one of us came out unscathed. An entire geographic area’s inhabitants (not to mention our islands) are permanently scarred from #irmaria and while each of our scars are unique, they are there. The side-effects of the trauma of an entire life completely turned upside down are vast. And we will all feel the after-shocks of Hurricane Irma for a very, very long time.
As most of you know, we are in the Chicagoland area where we plan to stay for the time being. And – despite the unfortunate circumstances – it’s wonderful here. We are surrounded by amazing family (Mom, you are the best! Thank you for everything!) and have many friends – new and old – nearby. Isla is enrolled in kindergarten and I walk her to school hand in hand every day as leaves crunch under our feet while we chit-chat. She has fit in seamlessly and absolutely loves it and all her new friends, who come running up to her to envelop her in hugs as we arrive at the school doors. Haven and Mira attend a little pre-school two mornings a week where they play and paint and they too love it. Not a single morning has been met with tears or protests of not going. They are adaptable and social children and we are very proud and grateful for that. They are all in dance class twice a week and swim class on Mondays…and, honestly, are as happy as ever. They miss our boat, they ask after their island friends daily and are excited to go back and rebuild (“We are gonna bring food and water to Nanny Cay momma!” they say. The lack of food and water immediately after the storm is something they really clung to). As much as we want to go back and try to rebuild our life and business on Tortola, the time is not now. We need to assure it’s safe and that schools are running, and we need to prepare our girls for what will be a very different – albeit interesting – life when we return (we are up for the adventure and challenge). In the meantime, life needs to continue while we make a plan moving forward. To anyone that sees us out and about on the streets here, we are just another suburban family living our life. But there is so much more below the surface. It’s strange to think about and I am now hyper aware that everyone has a story. How many people do I mindlessly walk past in the grocery store are deep in pain; maybe they are going through a divorce, lost a loved one, suffer depression, or battle addiction…we just never know. This experience has really driven this fact home for me: that life goes on as normal for the people around us even though our lives will never be the same.
As someone who studied theater most of her life and errs toward positive-thinking I can very easily put on a happy face out and about, but the pain of uncertainty, the sting of losing our beloved home and the general feeling of being untethered is always there. I have strange dreams every night. One in which our boat was lifted from the depths of the harbor, in perfect condition and ready to sail again. Another I was making my way across post-apocolyptic Tortola on foot trying desperately to get back to Nanny Cay. The storm and it’s effects on us are etched deep within our psyches, obviously. Keeping busy helps, and the kids are great at keeping us busy. Helping where we can is also a boon to the pain. Our fundraising efforts have blown us away and we have all of you to thank for that. At the time of this post we have raised over $160K for relief and rebuilding efforts in the British Virgin Islands. To think that our first “goal” was $10K might illustrate our shock at this large number. Our friends, family and online community is huge and generous and we thank every single one of you. We have spent about $80K so far on tarps, generators and chainsaws and are going to be working closely with other organizations who are on the ground in the BVI to make sure our money goes where it’s most needed. This is easier said than done (File this under: lessons learned in disaster relief), which is why it is taking some time, but every penny will get into hands of people and organizations on the ground working to rebuild our beautiful island. If you have not donated and feel the urge to do so, you can here: >>>BVI IMMEDIATE RELIEF FUND<<<.
IN OTHER NEWS: we have been invited to the Annapolis Boat Show next weekend by a couple of very generous souls (Thank you SO MUCH Jeff and Cam Bach!) We are SO excited about this and while it didn’t seem like we could make it at first, I felt this deep “need” – almost a calling of sorts – to go, and my gut was telling me it was important… So we have made it happen. We will be joining many blog and vlog friends there; some of whom we already know and love, some of whom we have never yet met in person. I might be speaking on a Cruising World Panel about ways sailors can help and what to expect sailing south. Check in with our Facebook Page for updates on where we will be and when. It will be a very busy weekend for sure but we’d love to meet as many of you as we can… Scott and I, along with others, will be at the BVI Tourism booth selling our #BVISTRONG shirts and all proceeds will be going to the >>>VISAR BVI RELIEF FUND<<<. If you won’t be at the show and want to sport some #BVISTRONG gear yourself, you can get tee shirts (men, women, toddler and kids styles available), baby onesies, hoodies and trucker hats >>>HERE<<<. Huge shout out to the awesome folks behind >>> Tight Little Tribe<<< and >>>Remember the Adventure<<< for working with me on this and making it happen so fast. We have raised thousands for VISAR with this initiative while also sporting our pride! Please give them some love. I also want to give a strong shout out to the group >>>Sailors Helping<<<. Aside from housing their newly appointed executive director (and PR evacuee turned pseudo family member and friend) Diana Margarita, we are ambassadors for their great effort as well and if you are a sailor who wants to help – please check them out. This is also great place to donate to if you have no specific affiliation with a particular island and just want to help. They have big plans for long term efforts, and we are excited to be working with them.
I cannot say it enough: the community and solidarity that has emerged from these storms is AMAZING. The other day I wrote that “as my heart breaks, it fills” because the kindness of both strangers and friends and the many people who are stepping up to the plate are astounding. The coming together of people from all different walks of life is humbling and shows me that there is hope in this crazy world. We are shining with silver linings these days, and seeing the positive that has come out of this disaster is a lesson in humanity that I am honored to experience. We cannot thank you all enough…Those of you who have reached out to us – your kindness will not be forgotten.
So life is going on. We are grateful, we are lucky and we are okay. The challenge of moving forward from this storm is a big one, but we are up for it. We are not waving the white flag and – while there are definitely days we feel very defeated and completely lost, and there are moments when I completely break down – we have every intention to emerge from this stronger than before.