By FARRAH JOHNSON
WHILE Hurricane Dorian may have destroyed the majority of Abaco’s infrastructure, the storm has failed to crush the spirits of some of the island’s most resilient settlers.
Almost four months after Dorian tore through their island, Naomi Miller and Delrosa Hepburn told The Tribune they are ready to return home and hope other Abaco natives will follow to speed up the island’s restoration process.
Packing heavy rainfall, severe storm surge and sustained winds of over 180-miles per hour, the Category Five storm left thousands displaced with nothing more than the clothes on their backs.
Mrs Hepburn and Mrs Miller were among those who lost everything. Still, the mother-daughter duo said they consider themselves to be some of the fortunate ones.
Mrs Miller, a diabetic confined to a wheelchair, said she weathered the brunt of the storm at Island Breeze Hotel with her family.
Initially, she said, the group felt that they would be safer there since her home bordered the sea. Still, when water began to fill the room of their hotel, they realised that they had to leave.
“I was sitting down on the bed when someone said, ‘It looks like water is coming through the door.’ My nephew tried to open the door, but it was stuck. By that time the water had started to come in heavier, so he tried to break one of the windows open.
“When he did, a flood washed through the window. By the time as they lift me up and try to get me out of the window, the water was up to my stomach. They started to tote me in my wheelchair, but it got caught in the floods and I had to paddle with my hands so I wouldn’t go down.”
Mrs Miller said at the time, she was fully convinced that she would drown. Luckily, they were able to find shelter at a nearby house where the family stayed for four days.
Describing the scene after the storm she said: “Everything looked awful. Things was bad because the storm carried my whole house and everything I had.”
“Marsh Harbour get mash right up (sic),” her daughter Mrs Hepburn added. “We saw dead dogs in the road and dead bodies lying all over the place. At one point I said I wasn’t looking nowhere else, because I didn’t want to see no more dead people.”
She explained that her mother’s poor health made it possible for the two of them to get on one of the early evacuation flights to Nassau.
Here, she said, they were housed by Island Luck for two months as her daughter was an employee of the web shop.
In early November, Mrs Hepburn said the family struggled to find accommodations, but eventually managed to secure a two bedroom apartment where they currently reside. As far as a job goes, she has had difficulty finding employment in New Providence and as of now, Mrs Hepburn’s daughter is the only one working.
“My daughter’s job may reopen in Abaco next month and she said if she goes back, we’re going back,” Mrs Hepburn said.
“I’m not working, so I might as well go back home. For me to save money, I would rather go back because we don’t have to be paying rent out of our pockets. We’re only waiting for my daughter’s boss to confirm her transfer back to Abaco then we’re going to pack up and send our things ahead.”
When asked if she believed things would be better back home, she admitted that while it will take some time for Abaco to “get back on its feet,” it will also take a joint effort from its people to “make the island what it was.”
“Everybody can’t stay in Nassau saying, ‘Man they gotta fix up Abaco.’ It takes all of us to come to help fix the island. I look at it that way. We need to go home and help ourselves.
“I know when the word came back to us that we lost our home I accepted that I had to start all over. I thank God because I’m still alive so when I go home, I will work, save my money (and) try and get somewhere I can call home,” Mrs Hepburn said.
With similar sentiments, Mrs Miller also urged other storm victims to consider returning home to assist with development.
“The only way where things could change is if all the people who gone away to Nassau and the States decide to come back to Abaco and rebuild,” she said. “We’ll get back where we’ve been, but it will take us a long time if nobody wants to come and do nothing.”