Tyson’s new reality
Six months ago, Tyson Henry would never have imagined telling the tale of surviving the ordeal of living through a Category 5 hurricane.
It is now almost a week after Hurricane Maria hit Dominica and Henry is still reeling from the effects of the devastating tropical cyclone.
Henry migrated to Dominica earlier this year to take up a new post, working alongside Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit.
In an interview on Whatsapp with the SUNDAY SUN, Henry tells the story of how he is now picking up the pieces in an effort to bring some semblance of order back to his life.
“Imagine a situation where stores are either destroyed or closed. For those like me, whose homes are seriously destroyed, where do you begin to find food in the house? The floor is littered with rubble, and the cabinets are the same,” he said, speaking from Roseau.
Describing the experience as surreal, the 29-year-old said he was not prepared for what happened.
“My whole roof came off. I’m also fully aware that I’m alive because I wasn’t stricken by the fear this event caused, and was well advised on what to do. When the hurricane swiftly got upgraded, having spent the first half of the day thinking it was a category 1, I can admit now that I was unprepared for what came. But now it’s my reality, and the reality of everyone here.
“I didn’t think about going weeks without water and food; not just in the house, but also in stores. So many people in the essential services were on duty, and are still clueless about their families and homes,” he related.
Henry said he was not prepared for what lay before him when he ventured outside after the ferocious winds had subsided.
“When I sensed that the storm was over, I climbed over everything that was part of my shelter in the guest bathroom and sought refuge in my car. I’m blessed that my story had that happy of an ending. Several people’s homes caved in on them; some were caught in landslides and their bodies are yet to be found. You think your home is well designed and built until it’s truly tested. When you find out how flawed it is, it’s too late, and that can happen to anyone. These kinds of things humble you.
“I had a neighbour asking me if I want my waterlogged shoes and if he can have some detergent, because he was washing the clothes that could be saved. He asked, even though the house is currently open and roofless,” he recounted.
Henry then trudged three and a half miles through the debris-strewn streets, from his home in Canefield to the capital, Roseau.
“My car was trapped in, and the first sight of the neighbourhood was surreal. The river behind my home was larger than I knew. It was like a new lease on life where you start seeing things you always overlooked. Even though I was sleepless, I walked miles to the capital, just gazing in disbelief along the way.
“I didn’t realise how far I had walked until I started feeling thirsty, and all I had in my hand was a camera. What had started out as me taking pictures of the damage to my home, gradually grew to surveying my neighbourhood and then every neighbourhood and village along the way to the capital,” he said.
He continued: “Roseau was unrecognisable. I think that was when it truly hit home that the rest of the country wasn’t likely to have fared well either. Upon approaching town, I discovered that the bridge which runs parallel to the newly opened bridge, that replaced one damaged by [Tropical Storm] Erika, was now damaged. Everybody was now in the same boat; homeless,” he said.
However, he recalled that fear struck momentarily when he came upon a group of people on the outskirts of the capital.
“My initial fears when crowds were approaching with cutlasses in hand and shopping trolleys filled with groceries were debunked when one asked: ‘Aye, you want water, man?’ Of course I took it . . . I realised that the looters were sharing the goods.”
Looters were out in their numbers, he said, because it was their only means of survival.
“People are just trying to survive. I visited many parts of the island that were inaccessible due to blocked roadways, and the number of persons who were trying to get assistance for themselves and families.
“Driving around I saw quite a few communities having cookouts; whether they looted the food or not, it doesn’t matter now. It’s about survival and there’s literally no other option. That’s why I can’t really dwell on my losses, and why I was very heartened by my conversation with the two Bajans who were just as empathetic as I was toward the losses Dominicans have once again endured. I met with two Barbadian lawyers who were here for a convention, and their sentiments are the same. They, like most visitors, can’t wait to return home, but for Dominicans, there is no way out,” he said.
“Being in Barbados when Tropical Storm Erika ravaged Dominica, it was heartening to see the support we generously gave. I hope we do it again, because while I know that things are rough for many Barbadians, trust when I say that many of the complaints we have are luxuries when a hurricane strips you of everything you own.
For the time being, Henry is safely housed but has pledged to help rebuild the island he now calls home. (RA)