In a way, it feels like it was yesterday. And in a way, it feels like it was a lifetime ago. So much has changed since Irma, which was three years ago today. The island has changed. The world has changed. People have changed. Some of that is good. And some of that, in my opinion, is not so good.
It’s strange, ironic, perhaps even eery (forgive me, I’m out of practice so I can’t find the word I am looking for here) that the island is closed to tourists today much like it was back in 2017 when Irma hit. It wasn’t officially closed to tourists back then like it is today, but I can’t imagine too many people were itching to get on a flight on Sept. 6, 2017, other than to help out with the aftermath.
Michael Barry, the owner of Sun Dog Cafe, posed a question to St. John residents on his Facebook page yesterday. He asked: “Fellow St. Johnians: what’s worse– Irmaria or Covid?”
That question garnered 98 responses as of this morning. The responses were varied, although all had a common theme. Both events – the dual Irma/Maria storms in 2017 and Covid here in 2020 – have been tough on the island and its residents, who overwhelmingly rely on tourism for income.
I responded and said I felt Covid has been worse personally. With Irma, I feel the island knew what it needed to do to recover and for us to feel normal again – restore power, rebuild homes and businesses, clean up, etc. With Covid, we do not know when life will feel normal again, when the island will feel normal again. And of course my feelings of normalcy very well may differ than my friends across the island.
We’re nearly six months into Covid on the island and so much uncertainty remains. After Irma and Maria, life seemed pretty good six months later. Everyone had power. So many homes and businesses had been fixed by then. I actually wrote on the six-month anniversary that the island was “buzzing.” It’s anything but buzzing today, and that truly sucks. (Pardon my language folks, but that’s the way I feel these days.)
A friend who works at Yale-New Haven Hospital text me in late January. He told me to be cautious about giving tours to any visitors coming in from China or anywhere in that part of the world. He said they found a weird new virus out there and that I should be careful. I didn’t think much of it at the time, as most of our visitors are from the States, but thinking back, I had no clue then how that “weird new virus” would come to affect all of us.
I leave the island every summer to spend time with family and friends up in Connecticut. I left a little earlier than usual this year due to Covid, and it looks like I will be staying up here a little bit longer due to Covid. I would do anything to wake up tomorrow and be able to return to the life I love. But sadly, that’s not happening thanks to this virus. So instead, I plan to hop in the car today and drive up to Kennebunkport, Maine where I will see some friends who used to live on island. And then I will drive down to Newport, Rhode Island and perhaps even Cape Cod and see some more island friends who’ve been displaced due to the virus. I can’t wait to give them all a big squeeze… with a mask on of course. 🙂
We cannot control Covid, but we can control how we treat one another. Just like in the aftermaths of the storms, Covid has brought out a lot of ugly in people. This is happening, from what I see, mostly on social media where people can cowardly hide behind a screen when spewing their hate. In the days, weeks and months after Irma, there was so much love. Love amongst each other on the island. Love coming in from every direction in the states. The love certainly outweighed the hate. We need more of that happening now. We need more love in the world. We may not all agree on what’s happening in society, the severity of this virus or whatnot, but we can all agree that love is important and we need to demonstrate that more.
I am completely rambling at this point, but these are the thoughts that are running through my head. Covid sucks. I hate wearing a mask, but I’m going to do it to protect everyone else. I miss giving island tours. I miss bringing you all out to my friend Ash’s beautiful beach on the East End. I miss sitting at the bar at Beach Bar and High Tide and having a Corona or Pinot Grigio with friends. I miss splashing around with Dalton at Maho and Jumbie. I hate that he can’t go up and hug strangers because that’s what he loves to do. I simply miss life the way it use to be.
Someday Covid will be a distant memory, one that feels like yesterday and a lifetime ago all at the same time. I look forward to that day, and I look forward giving you all a big hug on the island when we are able to again.
Love and miss you all…