November 23, 2019
Remembering what was, fuels recovery, both psychological and physical.
Dana Katz, Boynton Beach, FL spent much of the first half of the year fishing in the Bahamas.
“The Bahamas were like a home away from home for me and my boyfriend Kyle Shea,” said Katz. “Wahoo in early February, mahi in March, freediving for hogfish and deep dropping for queens and groupers: It was a great 2019 spring and early summer in Bimini, the Abacos, Sweetings and Grand Bahama. We fished over there only days before Dorian devastated our beloved islands.”
The second week of October, Katz flew into Marsh Harbour, Abaco.
“Driving into town, there was nothing left,” she said. “What used to a beautiful place was deserted, brown and desolate. Used to be so green, trees everywhere. Restaurants, bars, houses. And now, it's nothing close to that. Most of the trees aren't even there. Every house was just crumbled debris. Some houses ripped in half. Some ripped apart and flipped over. Boats were in the streets. It was a nightmare. The island had no power, no water, nothing!”
Today, on the most impacted islands, much is like it was shortly following the storm. Roads on Treasure Cay are still lined with debris, there's no power in most communities and people still go to bed each night looking at the stars through what once was a roof.
But, according to Stephen Leighton, deputy director to Congressman Brian Mast, who helped start 25-United Disaster Relief, a non-profit designed to help in the second phase of the recovery effort, each week brings new hope: a rebuilt house, a business, a school.
“Our organization is focused on bringing boots to the ground, getting volunteers over to help,” Leighton said. “Right now we're primarily focused on drying in homes. Terry Johnson of Stuart got access to a peel and stick shingle that has helped us dry in and roof 30 homes on Abaco Island to date: four in Cooperstown, 17 in Blackwood and nine in Treasure.”
Leighton went on to describe a well-coordinated effort of agencies working together to get things done.
“We have each taken on specific roles in the recovery process,” said Leighton. “In our case we're concentrating on getting volunteers over. We're spending $11,000 a week to keep the planes in the air. Right now through the end of the year we plan on bringing crews of seven to 20 people over and back on a Monday through Friday schedule.”
If you're interested in volunteering, you can register at the 25-United website. You'll be living in air-conditioned tents but need to bring whatever else you plan to eat or drink while you're there.
“Restoring a Way of Life” is the moto of Leighton's new organization. For the Bahamians who are still living in post hurricane hell, and for many Floridians like Dana Katz, getting back to normal can't come fast enough.
“With the incredible amount of support from so many people, there's no doubt in my mind that the Bahamas will recover,” Katz said.