Images of Orient Beach Show Complete Devastation of What Was an Island Retreat

Whenever my now wife and I would visit Sint Maarten and Saint Martin, we always had our go-to places. Those must-hit places that we’d been to too many times to not go to every time we set foot on the island. As if we were the only ones who knew about the hidden little gems. It always felt like we were going to visit old friends.

We discovered Pedro’s years ago. It was our perfect little place. My wife and I share the same birthday — May 24 — and there was one year when we went there, pre-kids, and the man singing busted out a reggae version of ‘Happy Birthday, to You.’ That was on my 40th birthday.

In the year’s since, we’ve been there countless times with our kids. Our routine for our Orient Beach days were always: Butterfly farm, Pedro’s for lunch, Orient Beach to lounge and watch the kids play, Calmos Cafe to enjoy the sunset, Le Pressoir for dinner. That was our perfect day and we relived it several times, just that way.

We visited the island this past May to celebrate our birthdays once again. Our oldest is now five, so he’s right where he’s old enough to remember some things as he grows. I’ve shown him a lot of photos of the damage to the island, along with photos from our trips, to help him understand exactly what he’s looking at.

I wasn’t sure if he totally understood the situation. Two days ago, I showed him video of the damage caused by Hurricane Irma for the first time. As I held him in my arms and we watched the video, I heard soft sobs. Our son is five, I’ve never heard him sob before. Screaming, crying, and yelling, but never sobbing.

As he continued to weep, I held him tighter and tighter, tears falling from my eyes too (and even as I type this). He asked about the Butterfly Farm, and I had to tell him that it was probably gone. He lost it.

I tried to comfort him the best I could, while at the same time being touched by the tenderness of the moment. I told him that we are helping the island, it’s why I built SXM Strong, and that we had already raised almost $3,000 for the people on Saint Martin. He told me that he wanted to take everything, “even the special coins,” from his piggybank and give it to help the people on Saint Martin.

My hope is that our son remembers Saint Martin and the time our family shared there. I hope he remembers the way the island looked before Irma.

Below are a few pictures I found online (here), of Orient Beach after the storm. It’s hard to look at but it just reinforces everything we all do, and give, to help try to get this island back up and running. They need our help, desperately.

Please help rebuild SXM and give today. Click here to visit our donate page. Thank you!


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Jon Ferlise

I fell in love with the island of Saint Martin the first time I visited to celebrate my 40th birthday in May of 2009. Since then, I've spent most birthdays there, and have visited countless other times getting to know this wonderful place and the friendly locals that make it so special. I adore the culture, the people, the community, and the beauty of this stunning island. SXM Strong is a website that I started to support humanitarian relief efforts following Hurricane Irma. There was no plan, it just evolved as I witnessed the devastation that Irma caused the island and the huge need to communicate and disseminate information about what had happened and how people could help support this island and its people.

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