Editorial: With mixed emotions

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It certainly is with mixed emotions that we begin the clean-up and recovery process in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. On the one hand, we are ever so grateful that the Almighty saw it fit to spare us, here on the mainland, the full wrath of this monster storm. After all, had Hurricane Irma hit us with her 185 mph winds, she would have inflicted immeasurable collateral damage and perhaps more than a few fatalities. That reasonable deduction is based on the modest damage meted out to us from the gale-force 50 mph winds that we experienced. Here on the mainland, it seemed we could exhale!
But wait! Not so fast! Hold your breath! Our hearts are heavy at the reports, scant though they initially were, that our dear sister island of Barbuda suffered damages of Biblical proportions. For most of Wednesday, in the hours immediately following the passage of Irma, our sister was litterally,  completely cut-off from us and the rest of the world. There she was, all alone, a low-lying dot shrouded in darkness, despair and death in the middle of the tumultuous and troubled waters of the North Atlantic. It was her bleakest hour, and we can only imagine the terrible isolation and terror that our fellow Barbudans must have felt.
Of course, we feel constrained to suggest that we should never again allow ourselves to be separated from each other in such a heart-wrenching way. Contingency plans must certainly be put in place for disasters such as these.  After all, much of our anxiety in Irma’s wake stemmed from not knowing the fate of our countrymen in Codrington.  The insult of being incommunicado was added to the injury of the hurricane. We submit that that period when we lost touch with our brothers and sisters in Codrington must be seen as a learning experience, and that steps will be taken to ensure that the dead air that existed between us and our sister in the hours after Irma is a thing of the past. Of course, as is evident from our own outages here at Observer radio, “Stuff happens!”
Meanwhile, it is with deep sorrow that we note the passing of that poor, two-year-old child during the storm. The death of one of our own, especially a toddler, diminishes us all, and we here at Observer media certainly join with our countrymen in mourning that tragic loss. We certainly feel the grief and pain of the distraught family.  May that boy’s soul ever rest in the eternal peace that was denied him during those turbulent hours of Hurricane Irma.
Barbudans have lost everything! Everything! They bore the brunt of this most vicious hurricane, and as per the pictures and the emerging eye-witness accounts, especially from our reporting team on the ground, the story is one of near apocalyptic devastation. We salute the Prime Minister, the Honourable Gaston Browne, for acting with some dispatch and visiting ground zero in the hours immediately after the passage of the storm.  Based on his seemingly clear-eyed assessment that Barbuda has been set back by about ten years, we call on all Antiguans to assist in providing initial aid and comfort, and long-term assistance to our loved ones in Codrington. And based on the outpouring of offers, Antiguans have risen to the clarion call in a most heartening and remarkable way. Seems, Hurricane Irma is bringing out the very best in us!
Having said that, we here at Observer media are beginning to have mixed emotions about the very notion of Barbuda being ‘hit’ and Antigua being ‘spared.’ If we could be so bold as to borrow a line from the American pledge of allegiance, “We are one nation under God, indivisible . . .“  If Barbuda bleeds, we bleed! If Barbuda sneezes, we catch a cold! If Barbuda is in distress, we feel the pain! In other words, with every roof that blew away, with every house that collapsed, with every injured person, we felt it all as though it actually happened to us. There is no difference. Whether the catastrophe occurred in Codrington or St John’s, Coco Point or Crosbies, Indigo or Cashew Hill, Low Bay or Long Bay, it is all the same to us!
And so in that spirit, we join in extending our heartfelt love and compassion to our better half – the good folk of Barbuda. We stand ready to assist, in whatever way we can. And most importantly we ask for God’s providential guidance and blessings in the days and months ahead.

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