Hurricane Irma - One Year On

Monday 03 September 2018

Sherri Ortiz - Managing Director, Equiom BVI, reflects on the British Virgin Islands, one year after Hurricane Irma.

We are known as “Nature’s Little Secrets”.  A mini financial services centre throbbing at the heart of the British Virgin Islands, surrounded by the beauty of island simplicity and serenity.

Hurricanes are not new to us; we’ve survived many: Hugo 1989; Marilyn 1995; Bertha 1996; Lenny; David; Jose; Frederic; Georges; Otto.  They were all just part of a long list - until Hurricane Irma arrived on 4th September 2017.

She tore through these islands with a force never before experienced.  Nothing survived in her wake and no one went untouched.  Those who didn’t lose their homes, lost offices, schools, cars, boats, clothes, shoes, furniture, books, pets and in many cases, lives.  The true cost of the losses still haven’t been tallied; in part because we simply couldn’t take it all in, we couldn’t fully comprehend what had happened, we didn’t know how to calculate all that was gone – it was simply too much.

The peace we took for granted, the annual routine of boarding windows and doors is no longer ordinary. 

And yet the islands thrive.

Trees are growing and flowers bloom against broken houses, fallen rumble, and twisted metal.  The breath-taking panoramas of picturesque hillsides still mesmerise, the infinity of blue-green seas still glisten against an endless horizon of promise and the sun-kissed wrapping around it all is still just as spectacular.

Our understanding of ‘disaster & destruction’ has been given new meaning but so too has the understanding of ‘our strength’. 

Each day we rise - cook, clean, sweep, work and hammer away at the wreckage. We lift what was fallen, repair what was broken, and rebuild what was destroyed.  With welcome anticipation we are greeted by a bright new roof, a freshly painted wall, a new window here and a new door there. The rubbish has been dumped and the debris has been cleared; and each day we rise - cook, clean, sweep, work and hammer away at the wreckage.

Speaking to my colleagues at Equiom BVI there is an overwhelming feeling of strength and resilience.

Here is what they had to say:

“No matter the storms of life, we must persevere and find the inherent strength inside each of us to survive and live to see another day.” Saathi Yamraj

“In the wake of hurricanes Irma & Maria, I have seen the strength of the BVI people and all who love and call its shores home.  The devastation made me wonder- would the BVI ever recover from such destruction.  However, I believe in God and the people of the BVI and like a Phoenix rises from its ashes and begins life anew, so will the BVI and its people.” Leona A. Smith

"Despite the disaster and trauma brought by hurricanes Irma and Maria, which affected the BVI physically and emotionally, we have ignited our resourcefulness and resilience, as we strive to restore the territory to a position that is better than we were pre hurricane." Doris Scatliffe

“I think we need to go through some stuff to really appreciate life and understand what it means to persevere, overcome and have faith.  Tough times makes a stronger person.” Dandra’ Vanterpool

“We had to all experience the worst hurricane known to man; ‘Irma’ and yet we survived...that my dear is called, resilience. I am BVI strong.” Kristal Black

“I would not wish the destruction and hard-times Hurricane Irma brought to the BVI on any other country in the world, but the love, commitment, togetherness received from the people in the BVI and other countries post Hurricane Irma was emotions I never saw in my 25 years of life. Magnificent.” Donald Lettsome