Stepping off the ferry onto Grand Bahama Island after 21 continuous hours of traveling felt like seeing the sun for the first time after weeks of rain. That was until we took a second look and noticed the torn off roofs, litter on the streets urgent and the destruction of almost every building.
My siblings and I were bouncing off the walls with excitement because we had never gone on an exotic vacation as a family before, but once we got there, the island was not exactly how we expected it to be.
The first thing we noticed was the trash. It was everywhere: in the trees, in the water, in the middle of the road, on the beach, in the village—everywhere. Along with the trash, all of the palm trees were destroyed. All of the branches were ripped apart and all of the remains were just swept to the side of the road. Similar to palm trees, the houses were ripped to shreds. With winds of over 100 mph, it’s not wonder Hurricane Matthew had a huge impact on these tiny islands.
I arrived almost three months after Hurricane Matthew hit, and the Grand Bahama Island is still suffering from its destruction. Christmas is supposed to be one of the busiest times of the year in the Bahamas, but after the hurricane, only one of the hotels on the island was open. The other hotels had their roofs blown off, windows shattered or paint removed. The hurricane’s destruction left the island a barren mess.
My family had no idea the island would be this beaten. We expected some damage, but nothing to this extent. The island stopped making money after Matthew hit, making it almost impossible to fix the hotels, pick up the trash and replant the trees that were destroyed. Most of the tourists on the island come from cruise ships, but a lot of them stopped visiting the islands after the hurricane hit. This left almost all of the people who live and work in the Bahamas with little to no customers and little to no money.
As a country, we are so oblivious to the effects of natural disasters that do not directly affect us. Families had their homes torn apart, shops ripped from the ground and businesses were ruined by debt.
We are so lucky to live in a place that can recover quickly from any disaster that is thrown our way, as rarely as that happens, and we continuously take it for granted.
Hurricane Matthew hit NC pretty badly as well, but North Carolinians are not as reliant on tourism and the beauty of our land as Bahamians. We were able to clear up the destruction much faster than the people of the Bahamas. Disasters like this happen frequently, and although we help at first, a week after the event, it is forgotten and we move on with our comfortable lives.