Story by Kaelanne Jordan, firstname.lastname@example.org
“I happened to have experienced Hurricane David in 1979 and it was considered perhaps the baddest [sic] hurricane to have hit. But I realised while Maria was going on, that Maria was overtaking David heavily….And I realised it was terrible…and that’s what we found out the following day.”
This was the chilling first-hand account of Reginald Shillingford on the night Category 5 Hurricane Maria decimated Dominica with 160mph winds, killing dozens, destroying property and severing electricity, telecommunications and running water.
Reginald recalled, neighbouring homes were “completely wiped out” and after a day or two, the family realised the extent of damage across the island. He explained, “We couldn’t move out to see what was happening in other areas but Dante [his teen grandson] and my son were able to climb over debris, trees, cross rivers and they went to see what happened.
“And they realised it was an alarming situation. But of course, they tried not to panic us so they toned down on the accounts. But we realised it was most terrible,” he said.
Reginald and his wife Rosemerlyn, are among four Dominicans temporarily staying at a priest’s residence in Trinidad since October 8. They are parents to Fr Conan Shillingford of the Diocese of Roseau.
Meanwhile, Dominica-born priest Fr Jayson Grell FMI of San Juan/ Mt Lambert parish described his nine-day visit to the island post- Maria as “depressing”. “It was still fresh. I got a hard-hit experience,” he said, adding that he was among aid teams to witness the devastation on September 24.
In an interview with Catholic News in October, Fr Grell shared that he was “happy” to be part of the reality, the struggle, confusion and the chaos. “People were still shocked. I spent nine days trying to bring consolation, counselling to families. For five days they were still shocked. They were walking around dazed. I was able to dirty my hands, let them know we are all in this together and we’re going to get through,” he said via telephone.
On the other hand, Fr Grell expressed concern for the lack of accountability at ports of entry in Dominica. He mentioned that since most parts of the island are without electricity, its surveillance has been affected.
“We have to be very careful. In moments like this, drugs, guns can be sent. There are no merchants to check. Port system got mash up, scanners cannot scan…there is no accountability. We have to go on trust but at the same time, a lot of drugs and cocaine can go into the country,” he said.
READ MORE ON OUR WEBSITE:
‘Beautiful stories’ after the hurricane