It was the night before Irma. Matilda’s windows were shut. Her cupboard was stocked. Her supplies were in order. New batteries–check. Flashlights–check. Bottled water–check, cocoa tea–check. Crix–check. Corned beef—check. Even some extra Purina dog chow for Rebel the Rottweiler. . . . Would it be enough?
Five days before, on the isle of Barbuda, life had been as usual. Matilda was seeing Ernest, a hotel manager, with plans for a December nuptial. Her job at the Codrington Resort as a marketing officer paid well. She was finished with school after returning from UVI with a degree in Hospitality and Hotel Management.
Then came the news. Irma was developing rapidly in the Atlantic and heading directly for Antigua and Barbuda.
Matilda had nowhere to go. Nowhere to evacuate to. Barbuda was 62 sq miles of flat terrain surrounded by water. A storm surge’s delight.
In her helpless condition, Matilda did something she had not done—at least not with any strong conviction–since she had dropped off in attendance at her church due to internal fighting over a second service and loss of quality in media productions. These grievances now seemed trivial, as Matilda dropped to her knees to do what she thought best.
She prayed.. . . She first asked for forgiveness and for a desire to become involved again in the community and her church. She prayed for Ernest; she prayed that she would remain pure until December. And then she prayed that Irma would head north and avoid Barbuda.
God chose not to say “Yes” to the last part of Matilda’s prayer. Hurricane Irma arrived late that night. She came at full force, sparing the larger sister isle Antigua. The eye passed over Barbuda without a blink. Without a glance. She gave a full stare, battering everything in her path. A terrified Matilda put Rebel in the closet and stayed huddled in her bathroom. As the wind howled Matilda continued to pray desperately. Oh Lord, save us!
Then it happened–her roof blew off like a hot roti skin flipped from a tawa. Then like parata the walls started to fall apart. Before she knew it there was water everywhere. Trees around the house were uprooted. There was debris flying in the air.
Despite the chaos, Matilda managed to survive in her bathroom tub. Morning came. And she looked around, she exclaimed, ‘mammi oh, de whole place mash up!’
Without electricity, water and sewer services, communication systems, and ultimately a place to sleep, Matilda felt in some ways as if the storm was still raging.
Evacuated to Antigua, Matilda is trying to begin putting the pieces together. And as she reflects on God’s grace, she is thankful. Whose Eye was really watching as Irma passed over? Amazingly there were over 1,500 survivors on the island. Only one life perished –a child too young to protect himself. Guess what? The wedding is still on and Matilda is grateful for what she does have–her life, her fiancé, and Rebel the Rottweiler!