More stressful than worrying for my own safety as Irma approached South Florida was worrying about friends and family members in the storm’s path through the Caribbean.
I grew up in St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands.
Yes, that St. Thomas.
I lived through Hurricane Marilyn — a Category 3 hurricane that battered St. Thomas and destroyed part of my childhood home — hiding in the hallway of my maternal grandmother’s apartment in Tutu. I turned fifteen hiding underneath a couch as Hurricane Wilma battered Florida in 2005— after multiple other hurricanes had already done the same thing.
I thought I was used to hurricanes.
Irma was the first storm where I wasn’t simply frightened for the people that I loved, but was sure that we would all die. I literally feared for my life and for the lives of my friends and family members both here in Florida and across the Caribbean.
At first, there was a part of my brain that honestly didn’t believe that Irma would be that bad. After all, we survived Wilma as a Category 4 so this couldn’t be too difficult. I got cocky. Somehow, despite seeing Harvey wash away Houston, Texas only days before, my inner islander was dead set on believing that things wouldn’t really be that bad.
Then Irma wiped out Barbuda.
Then it took its 185 mph winds to the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Irma destroyed my home island.