One of the greatest struggles for me right now is how to overcome intense feelings of guilt and helplessness. I feel incredibly guilty that Ted and I were spared and so many others lost everything. Many of our closest friends lost their homes or charter boats they relied on for income. When I drive around the island and see people digging through the remains of their lives scattered around their yards, I am overcome with grief…and guilt. I just don’t feel deserving of our good fortune. I can’t help but wonder, “Why us?”.
I’ve found that giving back to our community has helped me cope with these emotions. While I’m not saving lives or doing anything of tremendous value, I am doing as much as I can and that alone has brought me some peace.
A couple weeks ago, my friend Meredith and I delivered leftover supplies from our office to a nearby church. The church serves as a distribution point, providing food, water, and supplies to low income families. We stayed to help them sort supplies and returned on future dates to help distribute. On the first day, we provided supplies to over 220 families, many of whom were single moms with multiple children.
Last weekend, we joined 70 St. Thomians on a trip to Jost Van Dyke (BVI) to help rebuild. Because only approximately 200 people live on Jost, they have been largely forgotten by the BVI government. Jost has a special place in our hearts, as it does for many islanders. It is almost always our last stop when we go boating, and we’ve celebrated NYE there the past two years. With so many fond memories of Jost, we felt compelled to help.
The devastation on Jost was some of the worst I’ve seen. Almost every structure had signs of damage, and many were completely obliterated. Some of our favorite bars and restaurants are gone, their church and school lost their roofs, and they don’t have the equipment or manpower necessary to rebuild.
We divided into teams of ten and got to work. My team was tasked with collecting roof rafters from piles of debris, removing all nails, and installing them onto the school as a temporary roof. We worked for hours in the hot sun, maneuvering around dangerous standing water and rusty metal, but it was all worth it. By the end of the day, the school had a temporary roof so that class could resume today.
After we collected debris and removed nails, a few of us who are a bit construction-challenged moved on to the next task, which proved to be a bit more lively and fun. We helped the owner of Corsairs remove damaged equipment, furniture, and debris from his restaurant and bar. We also helped him polish off a bottle of Fireball to help celebrate Pizza Dave’s birthday (his pizza cook). We can’t wait to return to Jost, and especially to Corsairs, to witness their progress and catch-up with our new friends. I think I’ll enjoy Jost even more knowing that I contributed ever so slightly to its rebirth.