I first found out that Hurricane Irma was heading for Sint Maarten on Monday, September 4, 2017. My heart sank. Like so many other Americans, that small island is such a special place to me and my family.
I went online to find out as much as I possibly could about the situation, monitored the weather and the path of the storm. On Tuesday night in Phoenix, Arizona, my wife and I lay in bed, she with one earphone in her ear and me with the other in mine, listening to what was going on on Laser 101 FM.
By the time we fell asleep the storm hadn’t yet unleashed it’s full wrath on the island, but looking at the weather map I knew everything would be much different in the morning. It’s always strange when you know something that big is getting ready to happen. You know it’s coming and that things will never be the same after it, but the full impact can never be anticipated or prepared for.
The first thing I did when I woke up was to grab my headphones and turn on the radio to Laser 101. When I did there was only static. I shuffled to my computer and started to look for news on the internet to try and find out what was going on. Nothing. I searched and searched, hoping to find just a bit of good news.
I drove to my kids to school and got back to the house. Still nothing. I continued searching until I finally started to find small bits of information from others on Twitter. Suddenly it occurred to me, if I was having this much trouble finding information then people with loved ones on the island had to be panicking. That’s when I decided to start SXMStrong on Twitter.
After setting up my account, I started to tweet out information that I found and could verify to the few followers I had. Next thing I knew I was finding more and more information, people started to reach out to me and all of the sudden my office felt like it had become a communications center.
To be honest, the rest is a blur. It’s all I did, day and night. I set up this website as a way of putting all the information I was finding in one place. And now I find myself here, with you. If there was one thing about this whole experience that was the hardest for me, it was knowing there were so many people in the middle of that storm and I could do nothing to help.
Thankfully, the storm is over. Those moments we all had during it will never have to be repeated. And we finally have the ability to do something to help.
Check out this video. It’s really a well-done documentary that gives us a small look into what experiencing this storm was like. But please remember, there are thousands of people who live in Sint Maarten and Saint Martin who call the island their home. They will not be evacuating, they will be rebuilding.
Please join me in helping to rebuild their home, to rebuild SXM. Find ways to donate here.