Recently I wrote a post on A Lesson in Daring to Find Yourself, but I have to follow that up with a post on A Lesson in Being Resilient, Post Hurricane Maria. While writing my last post I was preparing for Hurricane Maria to make landfall. The second category five hurricane to damage St. Croix in my lifetime. At the age of five I weathered Hurricane Hugo and barely could tell you why it was catastrophic. Hurricane Maria strangely would level St. Croix only two weeks after the territory experienced Hurricane Irma, which destroyed St. Thomas and St. John. Hurricane Irma and Maria both will respectively cost all of the territory millions in rebuilding.
This leaves the Government of the territory, businesses (small and big), and schools affected in their wake and with no set timeline on when things will be running normally. Picture it: roads, homes, cars, and light and water all affected which greatly impairs the island’s productivity. With some already with little to no resources to help them navigate getting the basic necessities in order to survive in the aftermath of the storm they have now an even harder time getting resources. As desperate as the situation seems, it has created a sense of optimism for some, while leaving others anxious. Many Virgin Islanders are faced with the decision to leave and start over or rebuild and stay home.
As you begin to consider the possibility of leaving or staying I’d like to share my thoughts on things I’ve gathered in a post Irma and Maria St. Croix. While I can’t speak on how folks are coping in St. Thomas and St. John I’m of a general mind that it may be similar for all of us. The pros and cons are different for every person and family and it’s dependent on so many different things so I can’t speak on all points. The points that matter to my family the most are education and work. There is no deadline for when schools will reopen and for those who do not work salary jobs the fear of not regaining employment soon is real and scary. There are many people who work for private companies on the island. However, jumping ship for those who have already worked enough years and can soon retire through the V.I. Government and are on salary would be very risky, as you might not secure a good government job quickly in another state.
St. Croix is increasingly becoming a place for those from the mainland to move and or retire despite the economical downturn since the closing of its oil refinery called HOVENSA. When a native Virgin Islander quits home, the possibility of them moving back diminishes greatly. The reality is, island life is not for everyone and those that leave and stay abroad have accepted a new way of living and thinking. For those who stay there is a sense of peace away from the hustle and bustle of stateside living that comforts them. While the pros and cons list will undoubtedly be different for everyone I would like you to consider this when creating your list: what do you gain by leaving and what do you gain by staying?
Most of the men and women I’ve posed this question to have stated that they feel more resilient with the idea of staying and rebuilding and or they feel that this is the best time to give stateside living a chance. Many who are younger and have feared starting over on the mainland and leaving their comfort zones are more open now because of opportunity the storm presented through “mercy flights and cruises”. With mercy flights and cruises being offered many feel it might even be less taxing financially. But these trips are technically designated for the elderly, sick, pregnant, and children. Although it hasn’t stopped thousands of willing and able men and women from leaving I hope they have a plan to navigate. Navigating a state is way different than navigating a small island.
I originally came home to spend time with my mom who passed away in July and I promised to be a better uncle and brother and volunteered to take two of my nephews aboard the “mercy cruise ship” through Royal Caribbean. The experience for them was one in a lifetime as they were kids living it up without knowing how hard things had been for their mom. I will be back on the island at some point, but my goal at the moment is to make sure they are set up with school and adjusts to their new life.
As we move into a rebuilding economy we need help in the territory and whether you stay or leave consider helping in a way that suits you. The territory needs its people, home and abroad physically, emotionally, and spiritually to guide resources and optimism in the rebuilding process. This for us is a lesson in resiliency whether we choose to stay or leave and we must be prepared for whatever comes next!
Please Consider Donating or Sending Aid Through an Organization to the US Virgin Islands!