The Process of Processing Tragedy and the Growing Impact on Our Lives

I’m not a political person by nature. By that I mean, I’d rather talk about — or watch — almost anything other than politics. Honestly, I think of politics as an apparently necessary evil in a world filled with plenty of it. Evil, that is. Something that is there to control society and prevent what would be an otherwise nefarious chaos.

So, I’m not really here to discuss politics.

I’ve given a lot of thought about what I’d write here, in this post, and what the purpose would be. To be completely forthright, I haven’t really answered either of those questions. You see, the weird thing about writing — at least for me — is that sometimes just starting the process is enough. It will lead you where you want to go. Just write.

The tragedy of Hurricane Irma is what brought me to create SXM Strong. Many of you have followed along as, together, we’ve tried to unite to support a community and island we all love so much. I never conceptualized running a blog like this, but it happened because of a tragedy. It’s a little discomforting to think of it that way.

The bottom line is that we’ve all worked together in a way I’ve never experienced, and it’s been beautiful to see and be a part of. I love what we’ve created together and I’m committed to seeing it through, to continue building this website into something special that offers far more than information and support to hurricane victims and their loved ones. But that will always be how it started, and for that, I’m very proud.

I’m sure you’ve all seen and heard a lot of coverage about another tragedy – this one man-made. And before you click away from this story because the last thing you need — the last thing any of us need — at this moment is to hear anything more, another opinion, another political rant, or whatever, please take a minute to read on.

I wish I could offer you hope. I’d give anything to be able to tell you the answer to whatever the question is that ends things like the tragedies we continue to see. But I can’t. I won’t even try.

This past weekend, on Thursday, September 28, 2017, I drove to Mesquite, Nevada for an annual golf outing with a few of my buddies. It’s a typical ‘guys weekend’ sort of thing that we’ve done the last five years. On Sunday, after a weekend filled with plenty of laughs and a lot of pretty bad golf, we all set out on our way back to our homes.

I live in Phoenix, Arizona, so I drove. My friend, Kevin, and I made it to Las Vegas around 5 PM on Sunday night and were given directions by Google Maps to take a strange route around the city. In the distance we could see the towering Casinos on the Strip.

A few of my friends had flights to the east coast later Sunday night so they got a room at Hooters Resort to clean up and relax before their flight. One of them had a flight around midnight. He was in his room when chaos set in. People were scrambling onto his floor seeking shelter. He brought about five people into his room and hunkered down there until morning.

On Monday morning I woke up just like every other day. It was around 6:45 AM and I grabbed my phone as I prepared to go wake up the kids for school. I saw a news bulletin on the screen of my phone that said that 50 people had been killed in a shooting in Las Vegas. It was surreal.

I woke my wife and told her about it. I was confused. I went in to wake up the kids and came back to my wife scrolling through her phone. She knew that her cousin and his fiancé were at the concert on Sunday night and she was checking social media to see if they were ok. Fortunately, they were. Her cousin had laid on top of his fiancé to protect her from the flying bullets. They were able to escape with their lives.

There’s no way to compare tragedies and there’s no reason to even try. In the end, any tragedy, regardless of the number of people it affects, changes the life, or lives, of those it impacts. Those changes are immeasurable. The only thing we truly know is that they happen.

Life is strange. Sometimes there’s no rhyme or reason that explains why or how things happen. And that’s the ironic part. We, as humans, are always seeking to find a ‘reason’ for things. Some of us look to God, while others just think it’s solely up to humans to ‘fix things.’

After I dropped off the kids at school on Monday I came home and turned on the news. No doubt you’ve seen the coverage, so I don’t need to describe it, but I will. Endless, repetitive playing of the videos from the concert, of people running for their lives, of the sound of shooting. Over and over and over. And really, I don’t get it. I don’t believe there’s any reason that any one person needs to see that scene played constantly.

Every channel I turned to was playing the videos over and over. They’d be interviewing people about the tragedy in one box on the screen while two or three other boxes continued to show the videos of the shootings. And even today, I turned on the TV to see ‘Vegas Massacre’ in big bold letters across the bottom of the screen while people talked and the tragic videos played, over and over. This is how the media chose to cover a tragic event that caused hundreds, perhaps thousands of families to live through hell.

You can probably guess that I don’t spend much of my time watching news on TV. I prefer to get my news online, from sources I choose. That’s the beauty of the internet, I suppose. To think that just 20 years ago we were forced to get information from TV and newspapers only is mind-boggling.

Everyone has their own unique perspective. That’s one of the greatest things that me and my family love about traveling. When you travel around the world you meet people who are different than you and you learn from them, hopefully. You learn a different way of looking at things. Not necessarily better or worse, just different. At least that’s what it seems like on the face of it.

Whenever we travel we often find ourselves mingling with strangers who, if we stay on holiday long enough, start to feel like old friends. Actually, I’ve met people who I felt were old friends after chatting with them for just a couple hours. In the end, for me and my wife, we love to meet people and get to know them when we travel, as much as we can. In fact, we’d much rather hang out in cafes and local beach bars than spend our time in museums. We love people.

I guess that sort of explains why I started SXM Strong. It’s the people of the island of Sint Maarten who’ve welcomed us back time and time again, who’ve made us feel at home, smiled and laughed with us, that have moved me to do this. And I suppose that is perhaps the underlying purpose of this post.

SXM Strong is a blog that I created to help disseminate information to people who needed it during a tragic, catastrophic event. I continue to write and post information that I hope you will find useful. I plan to develop this blog into a place that offers more information on the beauty of the people and the island of Sint Maarten. I hope you stick around and come back often to read, learn, smile and share during both good and bad times.

The reality is that we are at a tipping point in this country, and in the world, in many ways, most of which I haven’t even touched on. The events that unfolded in Las Vegas on Sunday night are a truly heart-wrenching, gut-punch, tragedy. I pray for everyone who was impacted in any way. But for me, prayer isn’t the only way we can help.

If you’re reading this post, you’re already doing your part to help push change in our world. The truth is, there are many more blogs that cover all sorts of topics. There’s literally a blog for everything, and if there’s not, there will be soon.

There are over 1,500 newspapers, 1,100 magazines, 9,000 radio stations, 1,500 TV stations, and 2,400 publishers in the United States and they’re all owned by just five corporations. Those media sources sensationalize everything we see and show it to us — the way they choose — over and over again.

We have power in this country to do a lot of good.

We can change laws. That takes time, money, and getting legislation through a system that promotes payoffs and rewards crooked, selfish politicians.

Or we can change our own behavior. We can stop letting five corporations, five CEOs, five Board of Directors control what we see. We can choose to get our news from the source, through social media, from a blog like this one, or from any number of independently owned and operated websites.

Think about it. The choices we make every single day around how we get our information are some of the most important things we do day in and day out. It’s our way of saying “I approve and trust you to tell me what is happening in the world.” Where and how we get our information every day is one of the most powerful rights we have as a free country. Freedom of speech and freedom of the press all wrapped up into one beautifully written First Amendment to the Constitution.

So, if you like this blog, please share and help me promote it. I will work to keep you informed, entertained, enlightened and enriched. You have a choice and I greatly appreciate you choosing to read SXM Strong.

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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  1. Hi Jon,
    I just read your blog and is well written and I got your point. I step on the island for the first time in 1972 as a police officer and in 2013 I moved from the island and reside now in Charlotte Nc. Indeed very painful to see all the destruction but that is the past and we should concentrate on the present and the future. We cannot do nothing without the local community and I would recommend you to seek alliance with a group on the island so that we can not only share information but start working on actual projects which can help the island get back on her feet. Looking forward to hear from you.

  2. Hi and thanks for writing. This post has to do with the tragedy, and subsequent news coverage, that happened in Las Vegas.

    I do know a couple people on the island and have met many more since the hurricane. And I can’t agree with you more. We do need to focus on the positive, the future. It is bright.

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