I have been watching the coverage, as have all of you, regarding Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean. The devastation lives up to its name. These islands are not wealthy. Yes, many of the wealthy visit there and have homes or yachts berthed at St. Barts or St. Martin or Anguilla, but most of the people are just folks. They work in stores. Or clean villas. Or pump gas. They are not wealthy and hence, they could not afford to get of harm’s way when Irma came to call.
I often wondered why people didn’t just hop in the car and drive to somewhere safe when a hurricane was forecast. That was me, speaking from ignorance. Most of the people who stay are not the crazy nuts we imagine shouting at the weather gods. They can’t afford to leave. They don’t have the money- or access to credit- to fill up the car, load up the kids and the pets and drive to somewhere safe and stay in a hotel for god knows how long. Many of those who stay and weather out these storms barely have enough money to stock up on water and food and batteries. They live paycheque to paycheque. Spending a few hundred dollars on stuff to survive a hurricane is more than their budget allows.
I think of all the times we’ve visited the Caribbean. All the people who have made our stay so special- the wait staff, the drivers, the guys who take us privileged few out on catamarans. They aren’t rich. They work for a living, and for tips. I remember to tip most of the time but not enough. Never enough.
I hope and pray all those people we have met through the years and all those we have yet to meet are safe. I cringe when I read reports that 9 people died in French St. Martin and St. Barts.
The reports out of St. Barts are sketchy. We’ve seen some picture of flooding- it appears St. Jean got hit the hardest- but not much in the way of hard numbers. I hope that some of the billionaires who consider St. Barts their second home will pony up some cash for rebuilding. (I’m looking at you Roman Abramovich!)
I wrote about disasters in St. Barts in my novels, first a tsunami and then a hurricane. But I could not conjure up the scope of the damage to people and property.
I seriously doubt we will be able to spend our annual December holiday week in St. Barts. The airports in both St. Martin and nearby Antigua were hard hit. But come the new year, once the airports are up and running, they will need tourists.
Yes, I know you’re thinking why would I go to a place before everything has been fixed. Why would I spend my hard earned money on that?
You’re not wrong. And yet, after that tsunami slammed into Thailand in 2004, rather than cancel our trip, we merely moved it to an area that had not been affected. Our travel agent explained that the country and the people needed hard currency and every tourist dollar would contribute towards rebuilding.
That is why we will return to St. Barts as soon as it is safe to do so. To contribute to the rebuilding efforts. To show appreciation for all the joy the people and the island have given us over the years. To help at a time when it feels there is next-to-nothing we can do.
If you are wondering why go to St. Barts, I can answer that. Because it’s magical.
Because it’s beautiful.
Because the food makes me salivate.
Because I fell so in love with St. Barts I wrote a series of romance novels set on the island.
I am pleased to tell you that my St. Barts novels are available for free on Amazon from September 14 to 18, so download them and understand why St. Barts is my passion. I am not nearly a talented enough writer to do justice to the island.
Tell your friends about the novels and tell them, if they fall in love with the island through my novels that they should book a trip next year and experience it for themselves. With my gratitude.