By anguillian October 30, 2017 10:44 Updated




In the midst of disaster there are blessings. There is no doubt that Anguilla is going through a season of lack, of uncertainty and of fear. For many among us, Hurricane Irma has resulted in the loss of homes, jobs, businesses and possessions. Hurricane Irma took away a lot of material things from us, including some of the luxuries of everyday life that we have become so accustomed and attached to. Isn’t it ironic that on the fiftieth anniversary of the Anguilla Revolution, nature has destroyed much of what it took us fifty years to build? Further, isn’t it ironic that the very way of life that we fought to attain has been stripped from us, so that we are again without electricity, water and basic infrastructure? I believe there is a lesson in this experience for us. Perhaps, just perhaps, the new Anguilla we were trying to build was not in accordance with God’s plan. Perhaps God saw that we were going in the wrong direction and stopped us in our tracks. Perhaps in building the new Anguilla, we forgot what makes us Anguillian.

If there is one thing that Hurricane Irma has reminded us of, I believe, it is who we are. There is no other time in recent history that I can recall the Anguillian spirit being so clearly on display as in our current context. Our spirit of resilience is first and foremost in my mind. From the day after the passage of the Hurricane, in the midst of the shocking devastation and disbelief, there was a conviction among our people that “we will rebuild”. This phrase was echoed by every person you met, coupled with “we will be better than before”. There was no thought of abandonment, of packing it in and moving to a hurricane free part of the world. Despite the lack of electricity and running water, the heat, the mosquitoes, the lack of fresh food etc, there was a sense that no one doubted that we would get through this.

Efforts immediately focused on cleaning up the country and beginning the process of rebuilding. In all these efforts everyone seemed to have the unwritten understanding that it will take all of our collective efforts to get things done. Even the school children played their part. Though foreign to them – the shift system, for example, is being implemented without complaint as everyone understands that this is what we have to do to make things work. Adjustments at primary schools are being received in good spirits as well. Government Departments are functioning in cramped spaces and in some cases in no spaces at all, but everyone is doing his or her part to get the country back on its feet. Businesses, particularly in the hospitality sector, have been focused on cleaning up and opening their doors again. Every effort is being made to save at least part of 2017 to 2018 tourist season on which so many livelihoods depend, with the message being sent to the world that: “Anguilla is open”.

It is also heartening to see the Anguillian spirit of compassion throughout the various communities. Everyone is trying to help someone else. Many relief groups immediately sprung up in the wake of the hurricane. They have been sourcing and distributing supplies to those who are most in need. I will not attempt to name them here for fear of forgetting anyone, but I can say that I have yet to hear of a situation where anyone has not reached out to help his or her neighbour, in some way, to recover from the devastation. Whether it is water, canned goods, warm clothes, a temporary covering for the roof, cleaning up debris, babysitting children – everybody is helping somebody.

However, it is our spirit of gratitude that I am most pleased to see resurfacing. Sadly, Anguillians normally get top marks for complaining. We are a nation of “hard to please” people. But if you ask most people today how they are doing, they will most likely respond: “I’m blessed!” And indeed we are. We are blessed that in a hurricane with the strength of Irma, we only lost one life. We are blessed that most of us made it through alive, that most of our homes are still standing (even without roofs), that we did not have a food shortage, that within days our roads were passable, that electricity is being restored, that our children are in school, that our ports are open, that our diaspora – our Caribbean neighbours and friends of Anguilla worldwide – are committed to helping us rebuild. I am not saying there are those among us who are not complaining. That would be too good to be true. However, by and large there is a sense of gratitude that I hope sticks around for a long time.

While we have lost a lot, I dare say we have regained who we are. Material things can be replaced. But resilience, compassion and gratitude cannot be bought. They are built over time and passed on through generations by struggle, hard work, faith and a deep-rooted, unexplained love for this rock we call home.

By anguillian October 30, 2017 10:44 Updated


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