A year of initial shock, disbelief, desperation, hope, resolve and determination is behind us. The wrath of hurricane Irma is still fresh on our minds and never more so than right now, in the peak of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season. There are daily reminders everywhere of the furor with which that 2017 hurricane swept over our island.
The initial shock, coming out of the worst Atlantic hurricane on record, made way for any and all of the feelings described above.
Through it all, however, the heroic, neighborly and selfless deeds during and following hurricane Irma continue to remind us that during that disaster we knew no differences, no class, no creed. We had no time for pettiness, too busy trying to pick up the pieces. A year later, much of this has waned and the frustration of a recovery at a snail’s pace has set in.
Let us, in reflecting back on Irma to muster strength for the continuation of the long recovery process, remember that we have come a long way despite so many obstacles and setbacks and despite the tedious process of accessing much needed funds to aid in this recovery. Through it all, the resilience of the St. Maarten people has again shone through and despite our skepticism at the pace of recovery, we continue day after day to do our part.
Construction is booming on St. Maarten; businesses are reopening, our airport is busy, people are returning, investors are inquiring, and there is that sense of “better times ahead”. However, this picture would not be complete without addressing our challenges going forward. The challenges, some of which have been exacerbated by the passage of Irma. Foremost on our minds at this time should be the readiness to face any potential threat during this current hurricane season. With the best forecasts in the world, weather predictions remain just that, predictions and to use an old adage “it takes only one”. We yet have to assess how Irma’s impact was what it was, how some homes and buildings withstood and other seemingly stronger built ones were leveled to the ground.
Without rehashing past mistakes, we must nevertheless name them and address them resolutely going forward. Shelters, command structure, state of emergency, French-Dutch cooperation during emergencies, security of persons and properties, distribution of aid, accessibility, primary needs and communication.
With the reconstruction of our beloved country well on its way, we need to focus on the wellbeing of our citizens and their needs, chief amongst which are housing, jobs and health.
The past year has not been easy and there is still a long way to go, but we have come this far….despite. By the grace of God we will weather this season too and continue the reconstruction of St. Maarten, making us better prepared and equipped for future threats to our livelihood, our environment and our development as a nation.
May God bless our nation and keep us safe from harm.