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St Croix, invisible to the world, thanks to the media

I am writing to highlight the plight of the US Virgin Islands after receiving a devastating ‘knock out’ by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

The day before Hurricane Maria demolished Puerto Rico, on September 20, 2017, it destroyed the United States Virgin Islands, also called America’s Paradise, a group of islands in the Caribbean that lies 40 miles (64 km) east of Puerto Rico. The US Virgin Islands consist of the main islands of St Croix, St John, St Thomas, and Water Island.

For some strange reason, media coverage is almost non-existent. I’ve wrestled with this question for years: ‘If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear, does it make a sound?’ I’ve flip-flopped for years, “Yes, it made a sound and No, it didn’t.” But after the lack of coverage during and after the devastating effects that brought St. Croix to a standstill from Hurricane Maria, I will never debate (with that question) again. Yes, if the tree fell in the forest, it made a sound. Even though there is a lack of media coverage of this disastrous storm, yes, Maria did destroy St. Croix.

Flashback to September 6, Irma, a category 5 hurricane, came through, hit, and wrecked St. Thomas, St. John, the British Virgin Islands, and other Caribbean islands. All lines of communication were lost as family and friends flooded social media with prayers and tears, just wishing they could hear a word about their loved ones. Strangers wept as people posted frantic emotional messages about their loved ones. Nobody cared if the person was black or white, female or male, Muslim or Christian, straight or gay, Democrat or Republican, Trump lover or Trump hater, the gift of life was in danger and that was the only thing that everyone cared.

The next day, Thursday September 7, there was not a single social media post, not a phone call, not even the two little blue ticks that normally appeared on Whatsapp. Then, on Friday, September 8, I received a Whatsapp message: “Hello friends and family. I’m fine and so are my daughters. The island is in ruins. Thank God… we’re alive. The hospital is damaged and has to be abandoned. I’m at work now, but all the patients will be out tomorrow. Thanks for checking. Keep praying. I love you! Stan.” My friend (who I spoke to) is a nurse at St. Thomas hospital and when I got his message I was relieved that I finally got a message that there is still life on St. Thomas, but then water flooded my eyes, life of my fellow men is still in danger. I felt powerless and that is the worst feeling. There isn’t an exact count yet, but Irma claimed a few lives on St. Thomas.

Irma turned a world-famous tourist destination, St. Thomas & St. John, into rubble. The roof of the hospital was ripped off and water poured in. Emergency efforts began almost immediately to airlift St. Thomas hospital patients to Puerto Rico and St. Croix, respectively. While relief was on the way for patients, the people of Crucian felt a burning desire to do something to help their sister islands. The people of St. Croix began their rescue efforts, loading boats with cases of bottled water, food, clothing, generators and whatever else they could get their hands on, to transport him to St. Thomas. The Crucians even established temporary restaurants in Santo Tomas to give people fresh, hot food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. On their way back to St. Croix, some people from St. Thomas and St. John were transported to St. Croix. Their efforts continued until the alarm sounded that a Category 5 hurricane was heading directly for St. Croix with winds of more than 165 miles per hour.

The night of September 19 was the second longest night of my life. I stayed up crying all night, imagining the destruction of Hurricane Maria. Blowing up galvanized roofs, snapping power poles, uprooting large mahogany trees, flooding houses and destroying everything in their path. I started reliving 28 years ago when I witnessed Hurricane Hugo visit and devastate St. Croix. At that time that experience was my worst. It was the longest night of my life. I was 15 years old and I remember that at about 10 at night the roof came off and in a matter of seconds all I saw was black skies and the sound of galvanizing colliding with the gusting winds. My parents, 5 of my siblings, and I stayed close to each other as we ran to our other unfinished house. We hid behind walls. Our house had a finished roof, but no windows or doors. And my dad didn’t board up the windows before the storm. After the hurricane passed, the roof of that house was left intact, thank God. That night, my mom and I slept on a sheet of plywood on the cold, wet concrete floor. The next morning, the island looked like the remains of a battlefield. The entire landscape was rusty brown, as if the entire island had been set on fire by a malicious team of gangsters, houses turned to rubble, trees snapped from their foundations or uprooted. Curfew was enforced. I remember sitting on the steps waiting for the military truck to come by and drop off food. I happily ran down the road and gladly told them the number of people in my family and the soldiers gave me a well-packaged box of food. We were out of school for about 2 months and more than 6 months without electricity or running water.

During those times, a tear never rolled down my eyes, all I wanted to do was survive. Yet 28 years later, tears welled up in my eyes, scared of the unknown and the frustrating part was that there was no news in the mainstream media that Hurricane Maria was hitting St. Croix directly.

Most of us on the mainland tuned in to CNN, FOX, ABC NEWS, but there was no news from St. Croix. As if St. Croix didn’t exist. Yes, Maria devastated St. Croix and 2 days later, I found out that Maria also demolished the already devastated islands of St. Thomas and St. John. So the question is, “If the media doesn’t report something, did it happen? Don’t think about it, let me answer the question: “Yes, Hurricane Maria destroyed the US Virgin Islands along with Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands.” .

On September 6, President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter that he spoke with Governor Kenneth Mapp of the Virgin Islands and “We stand with all of you!” That was a message about Hurricane Irma. I’m not sure if President Trump was briefed on the St. Croix Maria hit, but either way, I want President Trump and the people of the United States to know that the United States Virgin Islands (St. Croix , St. Thomas and St. John) were knocked down by IRMA’s apple and MARIA’s evil eyes.

The Virgin Islands are home to some 107,000 people, their population is made up of a diverse set of people who are predominantly English-speaking.

I and other Virgin Islanders residing in the US (mainland) would like to advocate for media coverage of this devastated area, which is a tourist destination serving over 2.6 million people who visit annually.

In conclusion, as a direct result of Hurricanes IRMA and MARIA, many of the homes in the Virgin Islands were flooded and have missing roofs or collapsed walls. Many roads are impassable due to flooding, downed trees, and downed power poles. Many homes do not have electricity or access to clean water.

The media are not only an important part of society, but they are the ‘watchdog’ that is responsible for giving hope to those who have no voice. In this case, they are absent. Why? We need action NOW!

Note: This was not an article to complain about but to explain the seriousness of the state of damage and lack of care for Americans in America’s Paradise.

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