This year marks twenty years since one of the most ferocious hurricanes in memory made landfall on Abaco – Hurricane Floyd.
Apart from the devastation Floyd left behind, the storm became a cultural touchpoint. A point of delineation. An event around which time was denoted: “Before Floyd,” or “After Floyd.”
Making landfall just a few months before the turning of the millennium, Hurricane Floyd was a real-world analog to Y2K. But unlike Y2K, Floyd actually hit. And it actually had the capability to erase us. To knock us back to basics. The boom of the 90’s zeroed out like clicking clear on a calculator.
It almost did. Except for two factors: the resilience of Abaconians and the unprecedented outpouring of support from our neighbours in the United States. Shipping containers full of supplies poured into Abaco. Donations of food, generators, batteries, you-name-it quickly arrived to our shores to help us start healing.
Slowly we started repairing our docks, clearing the rubble, repowering our neighbourhoods and rebuilding our homes. Despair slowly made room for hope. Progress was not just possible, it was prevalent. Abaconians willed our island-home back from the brink.
It would be a decade before greenery returned to some places and some would be unable, or unwilling, to rebuild. But Abaconians got hit in the jaw and they still stood.
But no one here would ever underestimate a storm again. A lesson I hope future generations do not forget. A lesson I hope future generation do not have to relearn.
I remember peeking out the window of my home and watching houses proudly situated along the dunes slip into the heaving water. But the impact of Floyd is in more than just memories – you can see the scars today in many places. On Elbow Cay the Dune Road remains a treacherous, “temporary” pathway. A contract signing is happening this week, twenty years later, to finally and permanently address it. I hope they do a good job.
As we enter the 2019 Hurricane Season let us remember the lessons of Floyd. Beyond preparedness we should reflect on how our communities came together in the face of adversity. How beyond politics, race and class we were all Bahamians in those months. All in it together. I hope that becomes the lasting impact of Floyd.