Posted on October 27, 2017
Dearest family and friends,
This post has taken me a long time to write because I've simply not had the words to express what an incredible and amazing group of friends we have between me, Kate and Kirk. The last two months have been the most challenging I've ever had in my life and it was made so much easier with your generosity, love and support.
As for the update as of today. Kirk, Scrappy, Piper and I are in a rental home in Las Vegas until January 31, 2018. We are much better able to conduct business while being in the states than we could ever have done while on St. Thomas. So this was a great business decision for us as well as a great personal decision. We've been able to get off St. Thomas to allow the limited resources to be used by those who have jobs that require them to be on St. Thomas, or who simply don't have the means to be able to leave. We have NO Idea what we will do on February 1st. Our initial thoughts are that we'll head back to St. Thomas with the hopes that things will be better then. But of course, we have no idea what will be accomplished in the next three months. Especially since little has been accomplished in the past two months. I don't say that to complain, ALL FOUR islands, St. Thomas, Water Island and St. John were hit TWICE and St. Croix was hit by Maria. Maria set us all all back and many of the efforts we had accomplished after Irma were litterally washed away with Maria.
Kirk has been back to St. Thomas once and plans to go at least once a month until our return. While he was there, we had sporadic cell service at our house, and gas and diesel were more available. He even went into the grocery store without a long wait. But I suspect that given the enormity of what has happened on the island, it will take a year for the island to be back to some sense of normalcy.
Our house was not damaged very much in either hurricane. We had a tree fall on the roof, and a shed by our pool completely shred. I saw pieces of the contents and the shed falling over the railing while we were all in the lower apartment of our house. Kirk went out in the hurricane (yes he did) and made sure we didn't have any debris flying around that could damage a neighbors house. This was all in Irma. We spent 4 days with our neighbors removing trees from the roads, power lines, and other debris so we could get our cars out of the driveways. One neighbor had an entire galvanized roof in his driveway that made it impossible for us to check on the house or feed his cat who we had put inside during the hurricane. We were able to go through the bush from our house down to his house, but this took 30-45 minutes each time to go and feed the cat for fear of breaking something or falling iguanas (not joking!). Although it does sound funny now that I'm not living it anymore.
For those who are not aware. Irma was truly more than a Cat 5 hurricane. And we had sustained winds of 200 mph and our neighbors saw gusts over 230 mph. This was one for the record books, and I think if you watch the video of it (if it's available) you'll see it was SO close to us that it was scary. But having said that, I was never scared. I thought our roof might go, or we would have severe damage, but I knew we would be safe. Fortunately, the roof was on and we had very little damage compared to others.
We were getting a lot of aid from Puerto Rico and St. Croix after Irma. They were our life lines (and Kate Good was our direct life line!)
I stopped writing yesterday because I got distracted by a few things. But I did go on line and look at all the facebook posts and it was overwhelming. Got me a bit teary so I tabled this until today. Thank you all for your love and support I can't tell you how much it means to us.
So back to the update: Things were in good clean up mode and progress was being made, but we thought Jose was going to be another direct hit. We kept the house shuttered up with storm shutters and lived inside the house with no breeze for 5 more days. As you all know now, Jose didn't hit.
We had not left our neighborhood, so Kirk hitchhiked to Red Hook to see what the damage was at many of our rental properties. Fortunately, all the people we know were ok and the properties had minimal damage. The next day I hitched to Mahogany Run to see about those properties, which, again were fortunate to have minimal to no structural damage. Some have mold and interior damage, but that can all be fixed.
Then Kate arrived with suitcases filled. She brought pudding! and other sweets that made Kirk VERY happy (sweet tooth!), and our neighbors were so incredibly happy to receive the solar items. By this time we had no rain, so it was easy to put stuff outside and it got powered up pretty quick. She stayed with us for 24 hours, which was wonderful for us. We went to a grocery store (this one had no line) and bought steaks for the grill. We really were living high compared to what we had been doing. I'm sure Kate was horrified by the conditions, but while she was there, we had the generator on for 2 hours and cooked on the grill and ate outside. It really was a nice 24 hours.
Then as you all know, Maria hit. Again, we were well prepared and there was only a little water in our house. The real issue became the mudslide (we already had a small area of this for Irma that we cleared) where I typically park my car. Fortunately my car was in Red Hook at a client's home, but the mud, rocks, roots, trees, etc was about 18-24 inches tall and covered about the size orf5 cars, and included part of the road. No one from below our house could get by this massive mudslide. So we spent another 4 days just making a path so I could park my car and other cars could get by. It is by no means cleared. Only about 1/2 is cleared and we had a lot of help from friends and neighbors. We even broke 1 shovel and 1 broom cleaning it up. With no Home Depot open, this meant we had to borrow....
I must say, I got discouraged by Maria. Now Puerto Rico AND St. Croix were severely damaged and there would not only be any aid coming from them, we could not even reach our friends in PR who had been helping. It was terrible and in some cases it was weeks before we heard from them.
So after standing in line for 2 1/2 hours for diesel and gas, and 1 hour in the grocery line, we realized that we could 1. get more work done in the states, and 2. we were using resources that people on island who couldn't leave or had jobs to do really needed. We made the decision to get off the island.
Kate tried really hard to get us off island through puerto rico. However, we had heard that the streets were impassible in some cases and the route could take 2-3 hours to get to San Juan. So we decided that would be too much with the dogs. We asked Kate to do whatever she could to get us a private charter off island. We already had 4 people who needed to get off island for critical reasons, so we started trying to add more people. kate found two more with a dog and 2 cats, and you pretty much know the rest.
Two more hummanitarian aid shipments came. The first came on Monday and we had hoped to be on that flight, but we needed more time on island to sort things out, so it worked out and we were able to provide a bucket of items to all of our neighbors. One person asked for white tshirts and was so happy and overwhelmed when we took them to him that he cried. It was lovely being able to distribute these items to people in our neighborhood who had tirelessly helped us with removing the tree from our roof and the tree from our road, and the mudslide, etc. Everyone worked until we were all ready to pass out! And sharing these supplies with them was a blessing for them and for us!
Thank you for letting us be able to do that.
The last shipment of goodies arrived on the plane we departed on. This shipment of aid went largely to My Brother's Workshop, an organization who was started to provide education to at risk youths in construction, maintenance work, and recently in cooking skills. This last arm of this organization really came in handy the last weeks as they have been feeding between 900-1000 people PER DAY offering one mean a day for free. We were delighted to offer some support to this organization. Not only are dear friends of ours involved we are blessed to have them on island doing such great work. So Kate got another shipment to St. Thomas! And in the middle of that stress, she got a call asking if she could send supplies to the hospital that were critical. Little did anyone know that the CEO is a dear friend of ours! So blood, insulin and a generator part all went on the plane too. As did three men who desperately needed to get back to the island. One needed to salvage his business, one needed to reunite with his family, and the other was going to the BVI, our neighbor who was getting little help from the Britsh (due to the distance) and helping them with communication! Such a blessing. You truly feel that something not of this world is happening when so many good things come together.
So we arrived in Florida and stayed with Kirk's Mom and stepdad for almost a week. Then we drove two days to Houston and spent a week with Kate. During this time Kirk returned to St. Thomas to take care of some business that needed looking after.
Then we headed to Vegas, a 3 day drive, and found a rental home. We are so excited to be settled and in a place that is lovely and comfortable for us and the dogs. The girls are so happy and so much less stressed. I don't think I realized the amount of stress this put on them.
For answers to other questions, we have no plans to get married in the near term. I need more time to digest, to regroup, catch up, and I've told everyone I won't think about it until 2018...which is fast approaching, I realize.
Again, we are overwhelmed by the number of people who had reached out and supported these efforts, because there WERE MANY EFFORTS. Kate Good is certainly my hero and I can't imagine having gotten through any of this without her love and support. You all have shown tremendous love and support also and we sincerely appreciate all of you. I am working through a list of thank you notes and am seriously behind as I've been organizing our new home so we can have guests!!!! If I don't have your address, can you please message me or email me with it? [email protected] I'm a stickler for thank yous and I want to thank each of your personally. Thanks for your patience as I write this novel and thanks for hanging in and reading it all! Love you all, each of you from the bottom of our hearts THANK YOU!
Kirk, Scrappy, Piper and Cara Jo