A Memory of Maria: Day 5
Walking up our 2500 ft farm road was a real challenge. I had to go “off road” through roadside farms more than once to get around broken trees. Not having the right footwear did not help. Eden on Sea, the plantation where we live, is a coconut plantation. Coconut trees, felled by Maria, were down everywhere, all pointing towards the North West. The few left standing had broken crowns, and little chance of survival.
It was heart breaking! Our beautiful canopy of cedar trees were a mangled mess. Maria had stripped away all leaves and underbrush and sea blast was fast turning greens to brown. Tall plantain trees that had lined our road were ripped from the earth. Our road was furrowed by the torrential rain runoff. The land was stripped bare. There were no birds.
The true magnitude of the catastrophe that was our lot unfolded around me. Tears began to streak down my cheeks as I observed what remained of the ridge top houses to the south of me. 9 out of 10 roofs were gone, and gaps between houses bore testament to the homes that had been blown away.
“Our road was furrowed by the torrential rain runoff. The land was stripped bare. There were no birds.”
I continued my struggle up to the top of my road where Mr. Jeremy lived. His house with its concrete roof stood solid, however all galvanize awnings on the exterior were gone. I stopped to talk with him and we exchanged our stories. Exchanging memories of Maria would be a feature of every conversation in the weeks to come.
Galvanize sheeting and the remnants of roofing rafters littered the road. Galvanize festooned the standing trees like tissue paper, and every electric pole was bowed or broken in submission. I came to Mr. Prince’s house. His new roof, merely 1 year old, was gone. Nothing remained of his beautiful home but the naked walls. Prince, a British returnee in his 80s, was in total shock, and I stopped to swap memories of that fateful night. Everyone had to tell their story.
The catholic church stood, but had lost its steeple. Maria had a special wrath for churches, as few were not destroyed. As the density of housing increased, so did the magnitude of destruction unfold. Electric cables and telephone wires crossed the road. Everywhere were the remnants of houses, and damaged vehicles, like a war zone.
Prior to leaving, I had committed to paper our names and the names of our sons and their phone numbers. I handed out the messages saying that we were OK to everyone I met. Son CJ recalled that his first awareness that we were OK came from an anonymous source who relayed that the “white man” had been seen in the village. Communication with our sons was an obsession.
Wesley main road was barely passable with a tangled mess of wires, leaning electrical poles, and the ruins of houses. Her residents had that glazed survivors look in their eyes, but the sound of sawing and hammering was everywhere, as people tried to return some sense of normalcy to their lives. The houses that stood were now packed with relatives and friends, and wood fires boiled away with the next meal.
“One major lesson I carried away from Maria is that water is life.”
Everyone was occupied with obtaining safe drinking water. The area has an abundance of springs, so every conceivable container was pressed into service to collect and store water. One major lesson I carried away from Maria is that water is life. The other preoccupation was with securing a supply of gasoline. With no electricity, gas pumps do not work, and transportation grinds to a halt.
On the long walk back home, I came across two workers from the plantation who I knew. They agreed to come the next day to clear away the debris from our road. Another big life lesson for me was that money has no power at times of disaster. It is the relationships that you foster that sustain you, and people will assist you if they like you.
Ms Shirley gave me two bottles of drinking water when I stopped to talk to her. Renoir, who I met on the way down the road wielding his chain saw, was grateful to receive one. Rich or poor, we were all in this together.
About Cyril Volney:
Cyril Volney is a retired banking professional and a proud Dominican. He is also a family man and comes from a lineage of distinguished individuals. Cyril now lives with his wife of 40+ years at their home in Wesley, Dominica.