We have stated that if there is a silver lining to the Hurricane Irma cloud it is that we have become closer as a people. In adversity, our best shone through, and we should all pause and reflect on what we have gone through and what we have achieved.
It is very easy to press on with the matters at hand and focus on the future, but at the same time – actually, before we do – we need to take the time to reflect on what has happened and how we have stood tall during the storm.
Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc in Barbuda, but Antigua was spared. Hurricane Jose was a menacing threat that eventually steered north, just enough to miss us and allow everyone to exhale. There was one tragic loss of life in Barbuba. But having seen the devastation, it is clear that it could have been much worse. For all of the blessings, persons have professed renewed faith and a greater feeling of community has swept the nation.
Faith is a key component to our strength, but so is our goodness. It was that goodness that was on display in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma that we think deserves praise. So many people put aside comfort and safety to guide the nation and provide relief in the time of greatest need.
The Government took a lot of criticism after the storm, but we should keep in mind that this was an historic storm – strongest on record for this region. Something so devastating that it would have been impossible to prepare for every eventuality. Sure, there may be some things that could have been done better, but the Government and the Barbuda Council deserve praise for the swift reaction and for organizing the safe and successful evacuation of Barbuda in such a short period of time and under the stress of the coming Hurricane Jose. Many thought and said that it could not be done, yet it was.
Then there were the volunteer organizers and supporters who rushed to participate in the evacuation and relocation. The private boat, vehicle and equipment operators readily assisted where and when they could, so as to ensure that our Barbudan brothers and sisters were relocated safely to Antigua before they were caught by Jose; literally out in the cold, wet rain.
Let us not forget the Antiguans who opened their hearts and homes. They, too, deserve praise and a hearty thank you. For if that goodness did not shine through, the plight of Barbudans would continue and likely worsen. We understand that there are lots of questions surrounding the temporary housing situation, and we look to the administration to offer a medium-term solution. Obviously, the long-term solution is to get Barbudans back home.
As media professionals, we must praise the entire media fraternity for keeping the public informed. Many people gave up their personal comfort and safety to ensure that the nation remained informed, not once but twice. Long shifts, sleep deprivation and difficult conditions were the order of the day, but the reward was the safety of the people. Well done to all.
We heard very little political grandstanding, and that is a good thing. Now is not the time. There are well over a thousand Barbudans that have been displaced and will become homesick with each passing day; however, the return will not be quick nor easy. There is an entire island to rebuild and limited resources to get the job done. It is incumbent on all of us to take the best of this very bad situation and come together to make a better Barbuda.
On the topic of rebuilding, our advice is that we do not rush to produce a ‘band-aid’ solution. If we do, we will be repeating these events in the future; with climate change, maybe sooner rather than later. It is not very often that cities or towns get a ‘do-over,’ but that is what we have. We need to come together to plan a better Codrington and a better Barbuda. Let us not just restore Barbuda to what it was. Let us make it better. Let us take the time to consult and create a master plan that will benefit us all. Let us make Barbuda a jewel that becomes the envy of the region.
Wednesday, August 6, 2017 will go down in Barbuda’s history as the end of one chapter and the beginning of a new one. Let history write of the great response to Irma and the fantastic things that occurred after she left.