Save Coral Bay: Hurricane Irma Update

Excellent post-Irma update from the Save Coral Bay organization:

Post-Irma Update 1

It has been just over one month since our island home was devastated by one of the most intense hurricanes in Caribbean history. I am sure you’ve all seen and heard of the extensive destruction to infrastructure, homes, and the environment wrought by Irma. And to add insult to injury, just two weeks later, Maria brought hurricane force winds to St John for hours on end, while decimating our sister islands of St Croix and Puerto Rico.

We woke up on September 7, 2017, to a changed Coral Bay. Houses had literally disappeared. Boats were strewn along the shores of Coral Bay Harbor and Hurricane Hole. People walked the roads in a state of shock checking on the safety of their friends and neighbors.

A month has passed. I’ve spent virtually all of that time securing my home, repairing the most critical damage, helping my friends, and seeking and providing comfort from and to the community of Coral Bay. It hasn’t been easy, but we didn’t choose to live in Coral Bay for ease of life. We chose Coral Bay because it was, and is, a unique and priceless treasure.
I am writing today to assure those who have supported Save Coral Bay over the years that our mission and our resolve remains unwavering. Although we have all been bruised, battered, and in some cases beaten, we need to look over the horizon at a point a year or two away when things have returned to a new normal, and focus now on what needs to be done to ensure that Coral Bay is redeveloped consistent with the vision of those who live here.

These points define my focus for Save Coral Bay over the coming months:

1. The mission of Save Coral Bay remains the same, to protect this special place so that its unique natural beauty may be enjoyed by future generations.

2. The risk of over development in Coral Bay remains, and the prospect of unscrupulous developers seeing an opportunity to leverage the community’s losses into their personal gains are greater now than ever.

3. We must remain vigilant and dedicated to protecting the future of Coral Bay. As incongruous as it may seem in the midst of this devastation, we will continue to pursue our advocacy for environmentally sound projects with the Army Corps regulatory division, with Coastal Zone Management, and with local government.

4. Recovery efforts are best handled by the agencies with the resources to make a real impact – FEMA, Army Corps, and territorial agencies – but Save Coral Bay will look for opportunities to assist when and where appropriate. Protection of the shoreline remains a priority.

People have asked about the future of Coral Bay given the extraordinary impact of these storms. In the short term, there will undoubtedly be significant changes to the people, the places and the environment which define Coral Bay.

Every storm erases some of the past, uncovering some of what was hidden, opening opportunities for the future. One of our Coral Bay elders said to me “we were due for a cleansing – look at the bright new growth emerging in the forest – this is regeneration.” Another person spoke to me as he looked out over the hillsides and said he had lived on St John his entire life, but was now seeing things that he had never seen before.

I expect at least a year of physical recovery – infrastructure, roads, businesses, critical home repairs, followed by several years of renovation and restoration.

The Coral Bay community is stronger than ever. The commitment to rebuild and reestablish the quality of life which we all cherish is indomitable.

Businesses in Coral Bay are rebuilding and opening – Indigo Grill, Wok on the Beach, Pizza Bar in Paradise, Oasis, Pickles, Skinny Legs, Connections, Windspree, Calabash Market, Love City Market – with tangible progress being made every day. Music is happening in Coral Bay – Indigo has hosted at least two open sessions with local musicians, generator power, cold beer, and LOTS of smiling, dancing, loving Coral Bayians.

The hillsides are getting greener every day. Flowers are blooming. Unfortunately insects are blooming as well, but that’s all part of the cycle. I will miss seeing some of my favorite trees and I don’t know when beaches and hiking trails will be reopened, but I do know it will happen. New vistas will replace familiar ones. Every void is an opportunity to create something new.

The human toll is difficult to measure. Everyone who lived through Irma experienced some degree of shock and trauma. Those who were away and returned later experienced a cognitive disconnect between what they remembered and what they now see. Each of us deals in our own way with these psychological impacts. Some have left the island. We will miss them. Some don’t know if they have the strength to stay. What I do know is that the core of the Coral Bay community is stronger than ever before. We are supporting one another and sharing the love that makes this such a special place.

As recovery progresses I will try to keep you all updated on the highlights. I won’t be focusing on the negatives. Our mission is to Save Coral Bay for future generations and that is what I intend to put my energy into achieving.

Blessings to each and every one of you.


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