Helping a Hurricane Survivor Make a Home

Nov 7, 2017

By Pat Simon

I met Elizabeth when she came to Household Goods after her house in St. Croix had been destroyed by Hurricane Maria. This is the same hurricane that destroyed Puerto Rico, and it hit the U.S. Virgin Islands on September 19th, but it wasn’t until October 12th that she finally got a flight out. She left with nothing but the clothes she was wearing.
Hurricane Maria, a category 5 hurricane with sustained winds of 175 mph, damaged most of the island’s buildings. Elizabeth showed me pictures of her family’s home: huge trees ripped up from the roots, the roof torn off and blown beyond her yard, and water damage throughout the inside. Just looking at the pictures brought the traumatic memories back to her.
“There were no sirens, no alert,” Elizabeth remembers. In fact, the hurricane “explosively intensified”, increasing from a category 1 to a category 5 in under 24 hours. Her concrete house shook. She likened the storm’s roar to a train. Half the roof was ripped off and the rain poured in. She was trapped for 2 days. She had injured her ribs and hip and couldn’t move. All the communication transformers were damaged, so there were no working land or cell phones, and no electricity or drinking water.
“When your roof starts to peel away and you are inside there and then your windows start to go and the walls start collapsing when you are in that structure — that is awful. The emotional ride of going through any hurricane is devastating,” said US Virgin Island Governor Kenneth Mapp in a FOX news report. Elizabeth has a lot to deal with, but getting her new home set up is no longer on her worry list. An agent from the Framingham Family Resource Center found her an apartment and then referred Elizabeth to Household Goods to replace the necessary items she had lost in the storm.
I walked with Elizabeth throughout Household Goods and helped her pick out items for her new home. We started with a bed, a kitchen table, chairs, a dresser and a sofa and moved on to dishes, pots, appliances, linens, and even decorations. She seemed to enjoy the time we spent focusing on items for her new home. She had an eye for floral patterns that will surely brighten up her new place. She took what she needed and even found a few things that reminded her of her home in the Caribbean, including a rocking chair like the one she had on her porch.
With her truck fully loaded, she thanked me, the Manager on Duty, and all of us volunteers with truly heartfelt appreciation. As she approached the U-Haul truck, her hands were shaking, having not driven in over four years.. She will undoubtedly have many things to cope with as she recovers from this devastating loss. I wish Elizabeth the best as she rebuilds her life, and am glad Household Goods was there to help.