When I went to bed on Tuesday, September 5, 2017, I was afraid of what I would see when I woke up in the morning. As I searched the internet for any news of the conditions in Saint Martin, all I could find was this picture. It was an absolute worst case scenario. My heart sunk.
There I was, sitting at my computer in Phoenix, Arizona, just staring at this picture in complete disbelief. The eye of Irma was sitting directly over the island. I thought of all the people there and what they must have been going through. I couldn’t even begin to imagine it.
For a while, that was all the information I could find so I knew that things were going to be bad. Nothing could have prepared us for the images that started coming out of Saint Martin later that day. Over the next couple of days we’d start to get more information on the magnitude of the absolute devastation on the island. Even now, I’ll admit, it’s so hard to comprehend without being there.
Shep Shepard is a member of the management team at the Sonesta Maho Resort next to the Princess Juliana International Resort. The resort is also on the famed Maho Beach, where aircraft buzz over the heads of sunbathers as they stand arms open to the sky.
If you’ve been to Saint Martin (Sint Maarten on the Dutch side), chances are very good that you’ve spent some time on this unique beach, maybe had a few beers at the Sunset Beach Bar. I know that my kids absolutely love it there. My wife and I have stayed at the Sonesta a few times. It was a go-to hotel for airline employees coming to the island, so we were quite familiar with the area.
Some of the very first pictures that started to come in on Wednesday, September 6, 2017, showing the damage of the hurricane were from the Sonesta Resort. At first, I thought, “That’s not the Sonesta. It must be a picture of some construction nearby.” Seeing exposed steel beams of a building isn’t something I’ve ever seen except when a building was being built. That was, before I saw some of the pictures of the Sonesta.
For Shepard, he couldn’t imagine the destruction that was happening outside as he and the hotel guests hid away in the shelter during the storm. He described the situation to CBS New York, saying, “I don’t think anything could prepare you for what we saw when you got outside. It’s as close, I imagine, as to what it looks like when an atomic bomb has gone off.”
On Friday, Shepard was also interviewed by CNN. Here’s that full clip:
— Sandra Larose (@sand_larose) September 16, 2017
Seeing pictures and listening to descriptions is one thing. Being there and experiencing Hurricane Irma is something most of us will never be able to understand. All we can ever do is try to comprehend it and do our best to help those who have gone through something, and are in a situation, that is absolutely horrific.
Photo credit: All photos are via @jonathanfalwell Twitter