My blog contains a large number of posts. A few are included in various other publications, or as attached stories and chronicles in my emails; many more are found on loose leaves, while some are written carelessly in margins and blank spaces of my notebooks. Of the last sort most are nonsense, now often unintelligible even when legible, or half-remembered fragments. Enjoy responsibly.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Grand Cayman Revisited

"Always do what you are afraid to do" - Ralph Waldo Emerson

In September of 2004 my wife and I were living on Grand Cayman when Hurricane Ivan came through wreaking massive damage and closing down the island, destroying thousands of lives, and taking most of our belongings. While the hurricane itself was fairly trying, it was the months that followed that were very, very hard. This last week we returned to the island for her graduation.

When I last left the island it did not have reliable running water and only had scattered electricity. It was still a war zone as tourists were carefully escorted down the fully restored scenic sections, making sure to never take them down a side street where people where still living under tarps in their ruined homes. Tourism powered the economy, but it was a hard sell as the grocery stores were still rationing water and milk. Being that the media is state controlled, no real information escaped as to how widespread the destruction really was.

I felt more alone than I have ever felt in my life and returning was one of the hardest things that I have ever done. Below is the only thing that I have written about the experience:

Winds of Change

Let me preface this by saying that I don't care what you think. Now that we have that out of the way we can continue:

At time I was the director of technology for a company that owned most of the grocery stores, radio stations and imports/exports on the island of Grand Cayman. The average house was built 10 feet above sea level when Hurricane Ivan rolled ashore with 200mph winds, a 30 foot storm surge and constant string of small tornadoes scattered throughout the two days it had ownership of the island. The real hell is the months afterwords. This is my account of the storm itself in hours as it fell through my brain. I have excluded the months after the storm because most of you would no longer speak to me as one sane person speaks to another they believe to be sane.

September 9th, 2004

1300 - Just called Kela to tell her that I’m leaving work. She’s invited two classmates to our home because they’ve closed the dorms. Don’t care, just want to leave the station after I do my last report on when and how fast it will make landfall.

1400 – Last one here, finishing last copy of backups. Leaving one in safe, taking one with me and putting one in a ziplock at another location. Evacuated work on bosses command via cell. Insisted all of us wrap our computers in trash bags in case the roof comes off. Dumbass.

1500 – Arrived home to find three nervous, excited people and one stupid dog. Dog obviously the only one with any sense. Decided to watch movie.

1600 – Power cut to the house. Van driving around with loudspeaker told us to leave. Loading the car with idiots and stupid. Don’t know where to go – headed back to work.

1630 – Back at work with group. Checking updates to storm online – it has strengthened. Going back on air to tell people that their god hates them.

1700 – Boss leaves own safe house to make sure all computers at work are covered. Thanked me for telling masses their f*cked and sends me out the door. He obviously doesn’t want to come back to dead bodies and spitefully uncovered computers.

1730 – Called friends down the street who haven’t been evacuated. They’re all drunk, have their elderly parents in town, kid hopped up on sugar and two dogs running crazy in carnal anticipation. This should be fun.

1800 – Two cases of beer and a couple hotdogs turned out to not last as long as we had hoped. Storm coming ashore, driving home to get supplies.

1830 – Arrived home, again, this time to waves crashing over pool and onto back deck. Decide to hurry.

1900 – Driving back to friends with reasonable amount of supplies. Small, unconscious three cylinder Suzuki Alto gains self realization to waves crashing over street, trees falling in path and finds 200 horsepower.

2000 – Arrive at friends, again, everyone already drunk – thank god.

2100 – Storm arrives fully and knows that we f*cked his sister and didn’t call.

2200 – Decided to wake everyone when water comes through front door. Everyone hurries to abandon food for essential electronics equipment in mad dash upstairs.

2205 – Reality sets in, we missed the DVD player. Everyone takes it personally.

2230 – Hunger sets in, forced to drink Jamaican Beer

2300 – Water slowly rising fast to first floor ceiling. Decided it was a good time to take a nap.

September 10th, 2004

600 – Woke to sounds of waves hitting the inside of the house, went outside on porch to pee.

605 – More Jamaican beer as I watch the waves slowly break on the second floor landing. God this beer sucks.

1000 – Realize that storm is not going anywhere and water is slowly deeper. Talked with friend about having to crawl onto the roof with 150mph winds. Talked about letting dogs in go into the raging current to fend for themselves. Talked about maybe having to abandoned friends parents to save the next generation. Tricked Kela into calling parents one last time to tell them we’re having fun. Potential goodbyes are worse then the real one.

1100 – Prepare final plan with male of friends family. Wait for seemingly inevitable.

1800 – Water has stopped at second floor. Can see very little left of surrounding homes around us from porch. Wanted to cry but everyone else beat me to it.

September 11th, 2004

200 – Nothing has changed. Going to bed.

600 – Wake and see that nothing has been missed.

1200 – Water has receded. Storm has passed. Wading out to see who else is still alive.

1230 – Roads are gone, homes are gone, cars and trucks have been tosses around like scraps of paper, all low lying areas are still underwater, walking to work to see if the radio station and grocery store remain. There are people everywhere who look like they’ve crawled from hell back up through the earths crust. Why aren’t the dead lying bloated in the pools with the rest of life’s remains? Where is the pain when you need to feel it?

1300 – Nothing left of the station. Roof came down, my office is missing. Someone has neatly removed the roof from next door and left stacks of paper completely untouched. Grocery store across the street being looted by machete wielding Jamaicans. Reinforcements of other employees arrive to watch same Jamaicans selling freshly squeezed and stolen orange juice for $10 a ½ gallon. They decided to take business elsewhere as more start arriving on foot.

1400 – Catch ride in direction of home – hope it’s there when we arrive.

1430 – Pass downtown in back of Jeep with dog and wife. Some buildings are standing, some are missing, some look as if they never were built.

1445 – Stopped in heavy traffic on road parallel to beach, forced to bail and walk. Find out road is now perpendicular to beach. Hike in deep sand towards home. It doesn’t hurt as bad I as I thought it would to loose hope.

1600 – Walk down driveway, neighbor’s roof hanging from trees. House remains standing, roof missing, stench unbelievable. House not that bad – all furniture ruined, linens stained with the past, crack running from floor to roof separates the two new different gradients of house.

1700 – Sit on wet bed with dog, wife and despair. Nothing left to do.

1800 – Decide to go on with life, not happy about the choice. Spend night sleeping on floor in 90 degree heat. Somehow lack the liquid in my body to cry.

September 12th, 2004

800 – Walk back to town, find one of the companies inland grocery stores still standing and other employees cleaning. Pull out backups and drain water out of computers. Salvage 4 out of 20. Lines are forming outside, there is very little food in the store. People look impulsive. There is only essentials for half of them.

1000 – Heavily armed police arrive quickly for an island without any guns or reasonable transport. They take up arms at the main doors and lines for limited rations begin.

1200 – Fix satellite feed and regain internet access and voice over ip phones. Call around to inform people that we lived. Doors open, people push, gun fired, warehouse truck with complete warehouse arrives as reinforcements, push of people felt in everyone's stomach.

1400 – More shots fired. Tell boss to put wife on plane immediately. Find out runway closed. Chartered flights to start tomorrow. Vague threats tossed back and forth, I win. Decided to work, nothing else to do.

September 13th, 2004

1000 – Put Kela on a plane. She cried enough for both of us. I go back to work.

September 14th, 2004

Move into coworkers house. Sleep on floor in garage with dog and other people. Learn to sh*t in a bag, bathe in the ocean and swing a knife.

September 15th, 2004

Borrow car someone carelessly left keys in. Pack remains of house in car, drive back to new garage home and store remaining crap in locked closet in nondescript boxes. Ditch car down street, keep keys. Call wife.

September 16th until December 3rd

Spend every night on concert floor with dog, sh*t in a bag, eat whatever we can steal from store, bathe in ocean, walk to work, wish for death.

December 4th

Arrived in Maine. Met wife. Wait until she went to sleep and slept on floor.

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