All it takes to bring back the most cruel of memories is a 15-minute stroll through streets that were filled with mud, trees and screams of agony two years ago.
A glancing look to the hills also sends tears down my cheeks, just as Mother Nature sent boulders the size of cars from the mountains on September 18, 2017.
I look across at my photographer Nigel Browne instinctively, and we shake our heads in disbelief, almost simultaneously.
This trip to Dominica was not just an important part of our lives professionally, but personally as well.
We had been there to see destruction, and now we were back to see the rehabilitation.
We will forever be linked to the Nature Isle at its weakest, and at its strongest time in history.
Two years ago to the day, we walked these same streets, and looked up at these same hills, mere hours after Dominica had been blasted to proverbial smithereens by a behemoth of a storm, the second largest in modern history, called Maria.
We gave away water to thirsty children, food to hungry parents, and where nothing tangible was available, offered our prayers and best wishes to those we met, some of them wearing their only earthly possessions.
It affected us deeply, as over the next week, we would be part of the relief effort by Barbados, along with the fine men and women of the Barbados Coast Guard.
And here we were again, and with a Coast Guard contingent once again, but this time returning as virtual heroes.
You see, Dominicans, deeply religious, are also a thankful people. Once they hear a Bajan’s accent and see any member of the Barbados Defence Force, they run to us, hug us, kiss us, pat us on the back.
And we were humbled by it.
Instead of fears, this trip to Dominica last week brought tears of joy.
The Barbados Coast Guard team and a group of journalists were on hand to get a first-hand look at the incredible job the island has done to get back on its feet in a short two-year span since being gut-punched by Maria.
The streets are clear of debris, stores are open with customers walking happily out of them, supermarkets are busy, and Dominicans are definitely on the comeback trail.
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit was not being boastful when, during a celebration concert last Thursday, he claimed Dominicans could be the most resilient people on the planet.
He can’t be far off.
All across the capital of Roseau, where most of the island’s 70 000 people reside, men are bending their backs and building, and women are on the streets in the sun, doing their best to bring in an extra Eastern Caribbean dollar.
At the mention of a coming storm in September this year, they look to the heavens, offer up a “not again” prayer, and get back to rebuilding their homes, their agricultural sector – their lives, as they knew it.
There are still some voices of discontent from those who feel help has not come their way fast enough, but for the most part, what we were witnessing was a collective comeback of a people who refuse to let the vagaries of nature get them down.
When we see them getting stronger, we feel emboldened, and get involved too.
Having helped Dominicans twice in four years, first with relief efforts after Tropical Storm Erica in 2015, then with Maria two years ago, those here and the residents of the Nature Isle are now forever linked.
They work hard, and we instinctively work hard on their behalf too.
Just ask Lieutenant Commander Anderson Goodridge of the now inescapable bond forged in relief between the two countries.
The captain of the HMBS Rudyard Lewis and his 16 crew were given a standing ovation and a personal thank you from Skerrit during last week’s event of Hope And Celebration at the Windsor Park Stadium.
I glanced over at Nigel again.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
This is what Dominica does to me, to us.
In the midst of tears we are not weak, but stronger for each other. (BA)