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History and legacy

Barbara Gloudon

Friday, September 14, 2018

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This Wednesday afternoon, while trying to get work done, we were reminded that it was the 30th anniversary of Hurricane Gilbert — one of our most serious hurricanes. Remember him?

The skies were making sure we remembered. I was in office, surrounded by the angry rumble of thunder and driving rain. I didn't trouble Mr Thunder, so I don't know why he was messing up my business. The rain was pouring down. Water pounded the ground as if we were doing some political chit-chat. Every area of sky was a dissatisfied, water-dispensing centre wrapped in a miserable-looking pale grey. The weather brought to mind that hurricane inspired rhyme: “September remember...”

Earlier in the day, reports of storms in this region had been taking up space on the airwaves. The eastern coast of the United States, in particular, was being told to brace itself for Hurricane Florence, which was promising to give out serious weather. The US authorities were already issuing warnings and taking all sorts of precautions. They still cannot forget the horrors experienced by other areas of their country during last year's hurricane season.

Nearer to home, the islands in the Lesser Antilles were looking to see what Hurricane Isaac was up to. Meanwhile, countries such as Dominica, Martinique and Guadeloupe, which are still in recovery mode, are no doubt anxious about the current situation.

There are memories of battered and bruised Puerto Rico, which is a kind of half-and-half member of the association of American territory. They found themselves in the most vicious encounter with Hurricane Maria, which went wild, leaving Puerto Rico in terrible devastation. A year later and the aftermath is still being counted. Recent reports have revealed that close to 3,000 people have died from causes related to the storm. This is up from the earlier reported numbers of 64 deaths. Millions were without electricity and water for months. The absence of electricity on the island of Puerto Rico threw hardships and despair at the people who were fighting for daily survival. Reports of the exact levels of suffering are, even now, still being discussed as politicians argue about who was at fault.

The Puerto Rico story continues even while the US authorities are promising to do all they can to protect the Carolinas and neighbouring states which are facing this new storm. We, in our part of the globe, wish them well, even as we look to see what is coming our way.

Meanwhile, for our part, this year the jokes about Hurricane Gilbert and the endless meals of “bully” beef have been tempered by the social media reports that Hurricane/Tropical Storm Isaac is following the same path which Gilbert took through the Caribbean back in 1988. We will never forget the experiences we had doing the ordeal and we named it “Wild Gilbert”, as it was a vicious storm bearing some of the cruellest winds ever borne down on us.

Many lives were lost. Homes were destroyed and infrastructure wiped out. We can look back now and “tek bad sinting mek laugh” about flying roofs and satellite dishes. At the time, there was not much laughter when we faced the task of rebuilding.

Attention should be placed on the respect which we should have for Mother Nature's power. In recent years, we have got better at heeding the warnings issued by the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management, as well as other agencies, and are hopeful about the present. The deputy mayor of the Kingston has declared preparedness for any eventuality in case Isaac makes his presence known. The mayor reported also that drains have already been cleaned and councillors will be available to offer assistance in case of “extra rain over the weekend”.

Meanwhile, motorists travelling through town are dreading what more rainy weather will bring. It could be said that the roads of Kingston have never been what you call 'water-friendly'. These days, with the increased construction and roadworks, it is challenging out there. Today, we have no choice but to deal with the inconvenience of the roadworks, but surely we can try to be more orderly in the way we behave on the roads. We are grown up enough to exercise caution and take greater care on the roads. It would suit all of us at the wheels of vehicles to keep calm and drive with care.

Gordon town honours Miss Lou

The name of Louise Bennett-Coverley is said with pride in Gordon Town. She was a resident of the town for many decades. Her Bennett family lived in Spanish Town before she migrated to the St Andrew hills after her marriage to the talented creative artist Eric Coverley. They settled in Gordon Town and gave years of service to the community. It was customary to see her car filled with children being taken to perform on camera for Ring Ding.

The Coverleys were instrumental in building the community centre and the Gordon Town All-Age School which has since been renamed in her honour. They were well regarded by the residents even after they relocated to Canada.

In 2012, the Gordon Town Community Council moved a resolution to initiate a plan to have a commemorative statue of “Miss Lou” erected in Gordon Town Square. On September 7, 2018, on what would have been her 99th birthday, the prime minister, other government officials, fans and lovers of her work joined the proud community members for the unveiling of the monument saluting a true Jamaican icon. The brilliantly executed statue features her warm smile and open arms as she seems to greet her friends and fans. One can almost hear her saying, “Dis long time mi neva see you, come mek mi hol' yuh han.”

Since last Friday, there have been visitors coming to the neighbourhood to see “Miss Lou”. In anticipation of this the authorities have revealed that there are plans to develop the area; further transforming it into the “Miss Lou Square”. The residents of Gordon Town will no doubt benefit from the increase in visitors. What a boonoonoos tribute to the legacy of Miss Lou.

Barbara Gloudon is a journalist, playwright and commentator. Send comments to the Observer or

gloudonb@gmail.com.

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