Sarah Crill: After making it through Hurricane Irma in the USVI, my boyfriend got hurt and he and I endured Maria in Puerto Rico
So many islands are struggling with the devastation, she writes, and people should know anything they can do will help
Editor’s Note: Sarah Crill was born and raised in Libby, Montana and lived in Northern Arizona before moving to the Caribbean to pursue a career in the boat charter industry. The views expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
Living through hurricanes Irma and Maria has been the toughest ordeal my boyfriend, Nate, and I have ever been through.
We had been living in St. John in the US Virgin Islands for over a year, running a boat charter to the beautiful US and British Virgin Islands. Then came Hurricane Irma. We survived that terrifying storm holed up in our bathroom. We lost our roof and our home, and all of our possessions were destroyed by water and wind damage. The entire island was completely devastated. They still need lots of help and basic tools to get even basic things up and running – things like generators, ice, tarps, and tools.
It is imperative to spread the word about the devastation to these islands. Massive efforts and supplies will be required for rescues, shelters, evacuations (for people and animals), and rebuilding.
We were thankful to escape with our lives after Irma, but our ordeal wasn’t over. Eight days later, as we were attempting to repair our roof, Nate fell 30 feet and suffered a broken back, broken ribs, broken left hand, and a serious head injury. I was with him as he was airlifted to Puerto Rico for medical care, and seeing the damage from the air was heartbreaking. We had to leave our only other piece of precious cargo behind: our already-once-rescued cat, Mahi Mahi. He is still there in St. John, being watched by friend.
While in the hospital in Puerto Rico, we heard about another hurricane, Maria. We exhausted every outlet to get evacuated before the storm, but because Nate is bedridden from his injuries, we were unable to get out. We were terrified to have to ride out yet another Category 5 storm, but decided that the hospital facility in San Juan, Centro Medico, was the best place to stay.
In the early morning hours on Wednesday when Maria was making landfall, the wind was howling through the vents and rattling all the doors. Heavy rain was leaking through the roof and causing ceiling tiles to fall. Our roommate had to be moved due to those leaks. Thankfully, so far, we are still dry and without flooding.
The building we’re in is surrounded by larger ones, so I couldn’t see much of the city from our windows, but news has already made it to employees about widespread flooding and wind damage around the city and elsewhere on the island. One nurse told us how concerned he is for his wife and 2-year-old son who are in the flood zone. He has not been able to contact them due to loss of cell service and internet.
We are currently still at Centro Medico waiting for Nate to heal so we can fly to Arizona, where we have family waiting to help us through our recovery. After we recover, we plan to return to boating careers wherever we can. Obviously, the Caribbean will take years to recover, so that may not be an option for us. We are still very worried for our last family member, Mahi Mahi, and are reaching out everywhere we can to get him home to us safely.
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So many islands have been affected by Irma and Maria. The damage is so widespread. To those looking to help the victims: the people here need prayers and positive thoughts, and for people to spread the word that anything you can do helps.
In our case, literally anything helps. We have no clothes, food, or long-term shelter. The hospital employees here and many agencies and people assisting with the shelters for evacuees have been nothing short of angels to us. There is a pretty long list of people here to thank. You beautiful people know who you are. You have been important shoulders to lean on. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. To our island brothers and sisters: thank you from the bottom of our hearts and stay strong.