'I almost gave up on life'

Survivor recalls Hurricane Dorian horror that sent him to his knees crying

BY ANIKA RICHARDS
Associate editor — news/health
richardsai@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, September 12, 2019

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NASSAU, The Bahamas — The sight of “Big Sam” outside The Bahamas Red Cross Society on John F Kennedy Drive here, belting out the words “Thank you Lord for bringing me through the storm” made it hard to believe that just over a week ago he had been on his knees weeping as Hurricane Dorian battered his house.

Samuel Williams, a resident of Spring City in the Abaco Islands, has not yet started picking up the pieces following the passage of the category five storm that destroyed his home and those of thousands others who are also now in New Providence after evacuating the hurricane-ravaged northern Bahamas island.

He and his wife were able to make it out alive, but at least 42 others in Great Abaco were not as lucky — one of whom was his close friend.

“I almost gave up on life… and my wife said, 'Man, you got to get back up',” he told the Jamaica Observer as he waited at the location to see what items and assistance he could get from the humanitarian organisation. “I was on my knees and I started crying. I cried because I lost things, the house started flooding, the water started coming into the house, and I didn't know what to do,” he recounted.

But outside The Bahamas Red Cross Society on Tuesday, with outstretched arms, Samuels was giving thanks and was hopeful that he would be able to rebuild.

Recounting his experience in the storm as it unleashed its fury on Great Abaco and Grand Bahama, he said he and his wife had to go through a window of their house.

“I tell everybody it wasn't easy. Where we were in Spring City, we thought it was safe… but we find out that we had a lot of breeze, a lot of rain, and we couldn't see nothing.

“First thing that happened to me and my wife, our roof of the place where we used to be, it gone. It just started to fly,” Samuels recounted. “Once we couldn't even get outside… the storm was really bad and we [were] stuck in the house — breeze was blowing all through the house. We were trying [to get to] the front door, me and the wife, we had to fall on the ground just trying our best… the storm was bad, it was terrible.

“We were trying to run to the left, we were trying to run to the right; we happened to get out and we ran through a neighbour's house,” he said, adding that they eventually made it to their car where they waited for hours as the storm weighed down on them.

Samuels, who was born and raised in the Abaco Islands, told the Observer that before they got to their car, he and his wife had to jump through a window of their house after kicking out a piece of board that had been used to batten down the window.

“We jumped through the window and we watched the roof going up as we jumped through the window. Everything destroyed,” he continued. “Me and the wife sit in the car for hours trying to figure out what we could do… it was terrible.”

He said they eventually drove through miles of water in the car, which by then had busted windows, and made their way to Leonard M Thompson International Airport, formerly known as The Marsh Harbour International Airport.

Since last week Thursday, Samuels has been staying in New Providence, in a hotel room courtesy of his employer.

“We see a little bit of hope right now; we thanking God for a little bit of hope. We see people around us and we are thanking God for just bringing us through the storm. I am praying for all the victims that they recover, and I feel like they will recover if they believe in God because God is still faithful,” Samuels said.

He encouraged his fellow Bahamians to put their trust in God.

He told the Observer that his next step is to rebuild.

“As things clear, I plan to go back to Abaco. That's my home. I born in Abaco in Spring City and I believe in God that great things can happen in Abaco.

“It ain't over til it's over; God is able to restore us, He is able,” Samuels said.

Except for a backpack with a few items that his wife had stashed in plastic bags as a precaution, Samuels lost everything to Hurricane Dorian.

“I got to break down the structure [of the house] because some houses leaning, some houses the roof is coming off, so you really got to rebuild… At the end of the day I believe in God we can rebuild. We'll put ourselves together as husband and wife; once two agree, when things happen, we'll hold our hands together, we'll build the wall again — we believe that,” Samuels told the Observer.

In a national broadcast on Monday night, the country's Governor General Cornelius A Smith admitted that the citizens had “suffered a most grievous blow at the hands of nature”, but called on them to rebuild.

“I know your grief has no bounds and words are useless, but we as a country and as your countrymen grieve with you, you are not alone.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the thousands of families whose homes and properties have been severely damaged or destroyed, and whose lives are now shattered. This is a dark and joyless time for those who have lost everything, but we pledge to you that there will be light and hope again.

“Fellow Bahamians, our public infrastructure has been degraded or is now non-existent. We face one of the greatest challenges in our history, that of rebuilding the lives of our people and our country,” Smith said.

He then reminded Bahamians that they are “a talented people”.

“We are a resilient people; we are a compassionate and generous people, and I now call on each and every one of us to summon the best of ourselves, to meet the awesome challenges that face us in rebuilding lives, rebuilding homes and communities.

“I have every confidence that together we can and we will make this happen,” the governor general said.


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