Thursday, December 6, 2007

Wilma 10

The two staff on board eagerly answered our multitude of questions. The first thing they told us was that nobody had died and that there were no serious injuries. That was good news indeed! They did not know too much about damage at this point. I’m sure they were happy to be alive and working again already. They did tell us that there was still a lot of water and sand everywhere. And worse, a 7pm curfew! This concerned us since it was now 7:10pm!

It was a totally weird crossing, to say the least. Normally we can look out the windows and see the island approaching. Not now. It was total blackness everywhere we looked. Not a flicker of light coming from the island. As we approached the dock, workers came out and lined up along it with flashlights to guide the boat in. Once docked, the door swung open, leaving us on our own to discover what we may.

We made our way across the now crazy jumble that used to be a nice dock. We had to be careful not to step in any holes created by missing boards. We made it to the end of the dock but something was very different. Instead of reaching the street, we were standing on a beach! The sand was everywhere and it was deep. We could see lights coming from the grocery store on the town square and we headed for them. We were walking on about four feet of sand covering the streets as we made our way towards the center of town. As we approached the lights, we had to pass by the police station. It seemed the whole town force was standing outside the building.

They were in formation and having some kind of meeting. We stood around by them, hoping that they would approach us or that there would be a break so we could ask them what we should do. There were no cars anywhere, no bus, no motor scooters and no taxis. The island appeared to be deserted. Finally one guy broke away and came over to talk to us. The first thing he told us was that there was a curfew and we should not be on the street. We just stood there with our backpacks on, looking tired and stressed. What did he think? That we were there to loot the already empty grocery store? We explained briefly what we had gone through to get back to the island and that we just wanted to get home. Was it safe to walk? He told us that it was not. Too much debris and water everywhere. He told us that we could either go back to the street and wait for somebody or something to come by, or we could wait for the meeting to be over and somebody from the force would give us a ride home. Alright then, back to the street, which was really just a pile of sand.

Miraculously, we did not have long to wait. We saw headlights weaving their way down the street towards us. As it got closer, we saw that it was a telephone truck. Not the big ones, the really, really small cargo van that held a driver, passenger and some equipment in a windowless back. They stopped and asked us if we needed a ride. We gladly accepted and threw our backpacks in the back and crawled in after them. There were no windows in the back so we had to try to lean over the front seat to see out. We were anxious and curious as to what we could see.

It was just so black everywhere. We could make out the shapes of buildings and the utility poles here had not fared any better than those on the mainland. They were scattered everywhere with lines twisted and heaped all over. What really impressed us in the dark was the sand and water everywhere. We saw some walls missing from houses and piles of blocks strewn about. But the power lines! They were lying everywhere and twisted around everything. Occasionally a power box would be lying on the road, smashed to pieces. The driver picked his way around all of the debris and actually made his own road across open lots when the road was impassable.

As we passed our friend P's house, we tried to get a glimpse of it out of the tiny window. Her house is situated a long way back from the main road and with it being total blackness, it was impossible to make it out. From what I could see it did look different, I just couldn’t figure out why.

And then, two blocks later, there it was. Our house! It was still standing and as we crawled out of the back of the truck, we could not see anything that looked like major damage. What a relief! It looked like we and our house had all made it through safely! What a miracle.

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