By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
ALTHOUGH Rocky Creek was devastated by Hurricane Dorian, displaced residents have returned after a year determined to rebuild their small fishing village in East End.
Those from the close-knit community of siblings who reside in the settlement are living in temporary structures on their properties where their homes once stood.
“We are happy to be back after being in Freeport for a year. It is not the same as it was before, but Rocky Creek is home, and we will rebuild it,” said resident Maxine Knowles.
Ms Knowles is one of four siblings who lives in Rocky Creek with their spouses and children. The family’s matriarch – a native of Long Islander– who moved to Grand Bahama many years ago and settled in East End is 71.
Before the storm, the family decided to leave and take refuge at a shelter in Freeport, except for brother-in-law Paul Russell who stayed behind. He barely survived by clinging to a tree so he wouldn’t be swept away in the 20ft surge.
The Tribune went to Rocky Creek on Saturday, along with the Rotary Clubs of Grand Bahama, which delivered building materials and supplies, acquired through a contribution by Grand Bahama Power.
For Mr Russell, and his wife, Janine, the memories of the storm are still very painful and difficult. Nonetheless, they are grateful to be alive and back in Rocky Creek.
The only thing left of the couple’s residence is the foundation. They have put up a small wooden structure which they are occupying. They have four children.
“That storm was not easy. You know what it is to be in four feet of water, crying out to God to let me live?” recalled Mrs Russell.
Mrs Russell was at the Maurice Moore Primary School’s shelter when it flooded with water.
“We were lying down on the floor when we saw water coming in. We thought it was rainwater and nobody wanted to taste the water. So, I tasted it, and it was saltwater.
“When we opened the door, the water poured in and I said, ‘I can’t swim,’ and the wind was just knocking us down. I was also worried about my husband in East End because I had heard rumours about what was going on down there,” she said.
Mrs Russell, who is a diabetic, said she felt that she was going to die and started praying to God as they were trekking through the water as they evacuated the shelter.
“I just cry, ‘Lord, if I never need you, I need you now. Just let me live.’ I felt my body was leaving me, and after praying, I could feel my body coming back to me,” she said.
Mrs Russell said that after the storm, Rocky Creek was like a “forgotten” community.
“We were left out …and people think Rocky Creek was off the map. Now, we finally got our sign put up,” she said.
She said that they are excited about restoring the settlement and are very thankful for the assistance Rocky Creek has received from the Rotary Clubs over the past year.
“Rotary was the only one checking for us, and they are continuing to assist us with getting our lives back to normal,” she said. “God is good, and I am happy.”
Her brother, Walter Reckley, said that reconstruction is slow, but they appreciate the assistance they have been getting.
Mr Reckley, a fisherman, also lost his boat in the storm and is not able to work. He has started reconstructing his home according to the new building codes.
Maxine Knowles said she is happy that her family is back together again in Rocky Creek.
“When I came back to RC, my house was still standing, but the roof and everything inside was gone; my sisters and brothers’ houses were flat, and tears came to the eyes,” she recalled.
“But, God is going to restore it. He is going to bring lil’ Rocky Creek back. The hurricane was hard for us; we lost all our homes, and the family was split up. But, today my family is back, and we are rebuilding,” she said.
“Through God, we are going to be okay,” said Ms Knowles. “God is not going to leave us. The main thing is that we have life.”
After living in Freeport for over a year, Judymae Feaster said that there is no other place she would rather live than in Rocky Creek.
“I live here all my life, and being here is a beautiful place,” she said. “We were in Freeport for a year and a month, and I am really happy to be home,” she said.
“Where I am living, it may not be 100 percent, but I give God thanks for it,” she said of the two-room structure where she, her husband, 16-year-old daughter, and 71-year-old mother live.
Since returning to Rocky Creek, Mrs Feaster said that her daughter, who has Down Syndrome, is unable to attend the Beacon School because of transportation concerns.
“There is no bus, and we cannot trust her with anybody…and she really wants to go back, but it is hard right now,” she said.
Mrs Feaster said they are looking to get her back in school in January.