I finally went back to my island. For a year I had lived on the island of St. Croix. It was my home; it was my life. After I came back to live in the States, a terrible thing happened. Hurricane Hugo hit St. Croix on September 17th, 1989. lt damaged the island horribly, but it also damaged the people I had grown to love. The people are now struggling to repair and cover the scars left by the hurricane. I went to help them, as a part of an 18-person work team from Dorchester Christian Fellowship, a church in Dorchester.
Taken from Journal:
I can't believe it, I really can't believe how much the island has changed. It's horrible what has happened. There are no more beautiful flowers, they're just gone. All the leaves on the trees were blown away. It looks like winter, but there is the beating sun. It seems like even the birds are gone...
The people have suffered badly since the storm. Some of the homes we visited today still have no running water, electricity, or even a roof. I don't understand how they could have survived after the hurricane. I guess we take alot for granted.
...We started on a woman's roof today, whose name is Carmen. She is Hispanic, and hardly speaks any English. She does know one word in English, though: "Thank you." All she can do is thank us and cry for joy. It has been six months since she has had a roof.
I can't get over how happy the people are to see us. They are so grateful. The people give us all they have to give, bright smiles and lots and lots of food. Every time we take a break from roofing we are stuffed with sandwiches and West Indian goodies.
...We finished Carmen's roof today. As we were leaving, she came out, tears pouring down her cheeks, and pushed a wad of money into my dad's hand.
He said, "No, Carmen, I can't take this. We fixed your roof because we love you, not for money. You shouldn't thank us, thank God for allowing us to come and build you a roof."
Carmen didn't stop crying, she couldn't thank us enough for the blessing we had been to her. I am proud I could help Carmen.
...I visited my best friend Laurie today. Her roof was slightly damaged, but she and her family are fine. When I asked her all about the storm, she started to cry. She told me she could never forget the sound: the horrible screaming and howling of the wind. She said she had never prayed so hard in her life. I am so thankful that she and her family are safe.
...Today we are heading home. My tired body is glad to go, but part of me wants to stay. I love this place, I guess I always will. In the ten days we were here, four new roofs went up, three enormous tamrind trees were felled and hauled away and alot of cement and masonry work were done. My muscles are tired and sore, but my spirits are high, for I feel we have accomplished what we came to do: help the people of St. Croix. Not only did we give to them, but they gave us much more in return. Their bright and sunny smiles and pure gratitude encouraged and kept us going, which was more than enough payment for the work that was done.
The hurricane has left many scars on the beautiful landscape of St. Croix, its beautiful homes and its beautiful people. But the island is slowly but surely coming back. The people have very high spirits and are thankful to at least have their lives. The physical island will probably never be the same, but the spirit of love the people have will always remain. n
Editor's Note: You may remember Kris' article on St. Croix in the October issue.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.