The Forgotten Americans Of The Virgin Islands Are Still Without Power, But Full Of Hope
As the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria continued to haunt Puerto Rico, Americans on the Virgin Islands have been left with little to no resources.
Over the weekend (Oct. 13), a Twitter account ran by residents of St. John reminded everyone that the island is still without power. "St. John, an island in the U.S. Virgin Islands, has been without power since September 6."
Last month, Hurricane Irma hit St. John Sept. 7 with Maria's wrath arriving 14 days later. Shortly after the storm, 1,200 military personnel were sent to the island.
"When your roof starts to peel away and you are inside there and then your windows start to go and the walls start collapsing when you are in that structure — that is awful. The emotional ride of going through any hurricane is devastating," U.S.V.I. Gov. Kenneth Mapp, told Fox News last month. "You begin to think it is abating and then it comes back more ferocious. You begin to believe your structure is going to hold and in the last two hours it begins to disappear and then water comes through everywhere."
President Donald Trump was expected to meet with Governor Mapp to discuss relief efforts on St. Thomas, but instead spoke to him aboard the assault ship Kearsarge off Puerto Rico. Weeks later, Trump bragged about the Islands while forgetting the 103,000 across the islands were Americans."The Virgin Islands and the President of the Virgin Islands, these are people that are incredible people, they suffered gravely and we're be there, we're going to be there, we have really, it is not even a question of a choice," he flubbed during a Values Voter Summit in Washington last week.
The New York Times reports leaders may remain coy on asking for money because of the $2 billion it owes creditors. “I’m so at a loss right now and really trying to hold it together because we were on the brink before this, in terms of our finances,” Representative Stacey Plaskett, the Virgin Islands delegate to Congress, told The Times.
Last week, The VI Hurricane and Resiliency Advisory Group was launched to help with the tracking of private donations and a creation of a recovery plan to resuscitate the islands' most important revenue–tourism.
Little has been reported on the well being of the people, but social media has proven to be a safe haven for those on the islands. After @NewsofStJohn's tweet went viral, their blog published several videos that showed ravage on the island.
Commenters between the videos were happy to see the island getting its look back, but residents have more on their minds than flowers finding their roots again.
Facebook groups like St. Croix Maria Check In, St. Croix, 00820 USVI and Government House - US Virgin Islands feature updates on programs, curfews, GoFundMe's and relief programs to help across the islands. Residents are also using their pages to post about goods and and updates for their fellow neighbor.
In an op-ed published with The Times, Peter Bailey shared how neighbors helping neighbors is the best relief the island has gotten since September. "At one point as the storm shrieked, I wondered if the world was ending and we, in America’s sole majority-black territory, were going to have the misfortune of being the first to go," he says in the Oct. 11 piece titled, Has America Forgotten The Virgin Islands?
Bailey speaks of neighbors and his elderly mother using machetes and other tools to help rebuild their home located in Nazareth, St. Thomas.
"My 74-year-old mother, machete in hand, was in her garden clearing brush away from her beloved mango, star fruit and soursop trees. “I’m just happy the rest of the roof remained! God is good!” she called up to me. Her gray Afro made her now look royal," he said. Like many others on the island, Bailey has found comfort through the spirit of his neighbor instead of any FEMA or national guardsmen.
Retired basketball player Tim Duncan made his return to St. Croix a number of times in September, feeding just over 2,000 people. "I wouldn't have wanted any of this to happen," Duncan told Bleacher Report. "But it's been a good thing for me to come here and give back. Without what happened—without the storms—I probably would have just stayed in my little shell. There was no way around it though: Helping had to mean stepping out of my comfort zone."
So what happens now? No one seems to know, but hope and the hand of a friendly neighbor are giving Americans the hope they've begged for from No. 45 and their government. For now, it's a dangerous waiting game with thousands of lives at stake.