Sahlman Blog Series: Part 8 – A Roof Right Over Our Heads

A series by author Susi Sahlman

This is the 8th post in a series by author Susi Sahlman. This post was originally published on Susi’s blog, Sahlman Art Blog. You can check our her beautiful St. Martin themed original artwork here

December 15, 2017 – We were in the states waiting for word that our loved ones were safe. It seemed that maybe it wasn’t so bad, that property was the only casualty. No one knows for sure what the actual death toll is. It is rumored that twenty-two coroners were called in on the Dutch side to help. Islanders are guessing the number to be well over one thousand.

What we do know is that the after-effects are very evident three months later. Children and adults without shoes, clothes, food, and still no roof over their heads. There are ongoing efforts to care for ongoing needs. As we get closer to Christmas, adults and children have hopes and wishes that may never be realized.

After World War II, those released from one prison camp were given lipstick. It seems frivolous and yet it gave the newly released prisoners their humanity back. In the same way the children of the island relish treats such as candy, snacks, and pizza. These relatively simple things help to bring them back to the innocence of their age.

Loss and comebacks are played out alongside of each other. We are encouraged to see so many working together. The work must continue until each one is once more whole. There are many opportunities to help.

Home. Shelter. We take it for granted to have a roof overhead to shelter us from the elements, or a dry bed to rest in. Here we are constantly reminded how miserable life is without these very basics. Couple the lack of shelter with lack of water, food, and electricity, and a picture of the reality of the aftermath of Irma emerges. Then the looting began. As more military joined the relief efforts, helicopters were employed; an eery sound hunting down looters with spotlights among the dark hills at night.

Those who were able to, escaped the island for various destinations seeking solace. Once things started to get back to “normal”, they returned. SXM is home after all. Islanders with roofs have taken in those without. There are still many who have found themselves homeless. Blue tarps are only temporary and on the French side between waiting for insurance, if possessed, and government regulations, progress is greatly hampered. There are people camping out in their homes. No doors, windows, or roofs. How many more months before everyone has a roof over their head?

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Susi Sahlman

An artist and blogger, Susi has a passion for the island of Saint Martin. She's been visiting the island with her husband Bill for 21 years. You can follow her blog at and see her artwork at

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