Living Intentionally



My passion


I am preparing for a speech later this week on Living Intentionally and must begin by commenting on the terrible shooting Sunday in Texas.  Another shooting.  How many devastating shootings will we have before we begin to solve whatever problems are causing these tragedies?

Living Intentionally may not have helped the victims of yesterday’s shootings at all.  Someone took their choices away from them.  The unbelievable has happened again and in another church.  A church, where people go to worship, not that the location makes the tragedy anymore or less understandable or acceptable.  How are we to begin to understand this?

I have no words of wisdom for those affected by these tragedies; only thoughts of grief.  I, and likely you cannot affect these situations.  But we can affect what happens in our lives, or at least, much of what happens in our lives.  There will always be some things outside of our control.  Not as much as we think, however.  But things such as the most recent Texas massacre, and the massacre in Las Vegas, and in New York City, and all of those before, are probably outside of our individual control.  What we have more control of is what happens in our own lives.   And unfortunately, many of us do not pay enough attention to what we can control.  Living Intentionally has everything to do with this.


Living Intentionally is about being our best self and making living our best life a priority.  It is about choosing our best even when there are forces all around us that can distract us from this.  It is about recognizing when how we are living is no longer working for us, and not just recognizing it, but changing it.  It is about having the courage to make a personal change, which is the hardest change to make.  It is about living a life that is authentic, one that is in concert with our values.


But how do we start?  Where do we begin?  This is probably the easiest question to answer.  We begin where we are and we decide who and where we want to be.   While it is tempting to think that we must continue along the same trajectory that got us to where we are now, such is not the case.  We can totally change our lives if and when we decide that who and where we are now is no longer working for us. To do so, however, requires that we be vulnerable, that we accept our vulnerability.  We have to face our discomfort before we can begin to change.  Nothing changes unless and until what we want is stronger than what we have.  The pull to stay where we are is so strong that what we want cannot occupy the space it needs to until what we have moves over to make room for it.

There are many steps in this process, and they can vary based upon one’s circumstances and one’s desires.  But the first step must always be to decide to live an intentional life.  This step cannot be skipped.  It all starts with this decision.  There will not be any clarity about the rest of the process until this decision is made.  And it cannot be just a desire.  It must be a decision.

My Hurricane Irma in St. Maarten experience in September was the point at which I made this decision, the decision to live an intentional life.  The decision came easily to me at the moment that I thought I was going to die.  It came to me with absolute clarity.  It was my “why.”  It has been said that when we know our “why,” our “how” follows.


More time with friends and family is part of my intentional living decision.







More time for eating nutritious and delicious meals.



More time for reading, which is needed to get through Hamilton!



And of course, more time with these precious granddaughters!



During my Hurricane Irma experience in St. Maarten, when I thought I was going to die, I decided to really live.  While all that means for me is not yet known, the mystery is beginning to unfold.


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Part Six of Our Hurricane Irma in St. Maarten Experience



A most welcome sight!  Daughter, Tara, and granddaughters, Mary Grace, Elsie, and Virginia, welcoming us home at the RDU Airport.


After surviving Hurricane Irma in St. Maarten, four days after the hurricane hit, on September 10th, we were evacuated by Royal Caribbean Cruise Line.  We sailed on Adventure of the Seas to Aruba, disembarking and overnighting there.  The next day we arrived at the airport in plenty of time to fly from Aruba to Charlotte and then on to Raleigh.  Our family would meet us at the airport at midnight, so eager to finally see that we were truly safe.  But one, then the second American Airlines planes both had mechanical problems, and we were not sure when we would finally be able to leave Aruba.  So, we waited.

Finally, an announcement was made that the mechanical problem had been resolved on the plane that had arrived earlier from Charlotte, and we were ready to board.  Screams of relief could be heard as we made our way to the gate.  The boarding process went quickly and smoothly.  We were in the air about 8pm headed to Charlotte.  We would stay overnight in Charlotte, scheduled on an early flight to Raleigh the next morning.

We arrived in Charlotte around midnight and the American Airlines staff at the gate were ready for us.  We were given vouchers for food and a hotel confirmation and were told that our bags would remain at the airport and boarded for our flight the next morning.  We picked up an amenity pack and boarded the hotel shuttle that carried us a few miles to a Days Inn.  After about four hours of not so good sleep, we were back at Charlotte Douglas International airport.  I used the food vouchers for food that could travel with us.  Our flight took off from Charlotte uneventfully and arrived in Raleigh on schedule.  Our ordeal was almost over.  We were soon to be home.

I have felt joy many times in my life, but none more heartfelt than the joy of seeing our daughter and granddaughters waiting for us as we came into the public area of the Raleigh Durham Airport.  Tara, Mary Grace, Elsie, and Virginia were holding, “Welcome Home Nana and Dr. Danks!” signs. (“Dr. Danks” is their special name for Mike; the story about that another time).   Daughter Chatham picked up our luggage and Dr. Danks and drove them home, while I rode home with Tara and the girls.  At home, there were many other “Welcome Home” signs, as well as balloons, fresh flowers, and a special treat for Dr. Danks.  Mike loves pork rinds and there was a bag of pork rinds on the kitchen counter for him!



Our “Welcome Home” sign, that has become permanent, and flowers and pork skins!


There was much hugging and tears; we were finally home!  This was Friday, September 15th.  Hurricane Irma had devastated St. Maarten early in the morning on Wednesday, September 6th.   We had been evacuated from St. Maarten on Sunday afternoon, September 10th.  It was now Friday, September 15th, and we were back home in Raleigh.



Granddaughter Elsie holding one of our “Welcome Home” balloons.



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A homemade cake by granddaughter Elsie especially for our homecoming dinner


In addition to feelings of joy, I had other emotions.  Feelings of relief were dominant, as well as physical and emotional exhaustion.  Feelings of sadness came later.  Then depression.  But for now, we were enjoying being safe and home with family.

Mike was not on the same emotional roller coaster.  He rebounded from the Hurricane Irma experience quickly, seeing it more as an adventure than a crisis.  I will not judge that or even analyze it.  Mike left on a business trip to Taiwan less than twenty-four hours after we arrived back in Raleigh.  I understood completely that he had to make the business trip, and was glad that he was able to get home in time for that.

I spent the next few days enjoying being home, letting Tara and the girls, Chatham and Johnathan, and MoMo cook and care for me that weekend.  This was the only time that I remember being unable physically or emotionally to care for others.  I needed being cared for by others and gave into it.


All the Girls

Daughters Chatham and Tara and granddaughters Virginia, Mary Grace, and Elsie.


Then Monday came, and everyone’s schedule had to get back to normal.  Everyone’s but mine.  I had a new normal.



When I thought I was going to die, I decided to really live.”


This blog completes the “Hurricane Irma in St. Maarten Experience” written as a blog.  The blogs written about this experience have had much interest.  Some people have even written and/or said, “You need to write a book about this!”  I have decided to do just that and to have the book for publication in early 2018. The Hurricane Irma in St. Maarten experience resulted in so many lessons, so many more than can be chronicled in a blog.   I will keep you posted.

Thank you so much for your interest; it is appreciated more than you know.    

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Part Five of Our Hurricane Irma Experience in St. Maarten


Aruba is beautiful; pristine and clean; reminded me of Bermuda.

Amazing.  Just when we thought we were headed home, the take-off of our plane from Aruba was aborted and we are headed back to the gate.  It had been more than a week since Hurricane Irma came through St. Maarten with a vengeance, trapping six thousand Americans, including Mike and me.  Four days later 300 of us were picked up and evacuated by the humanitarian effort of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line.  They rerouted an existing cruise to evacuate us, giving us the option to go all the way with them to San Juan via Curacao, Aruba, and Bonaire, or to disembark at any port from which we could get a flight.  Mike and I were able to get a flight from Aruba through Charlotte back to Raleigh.  After spending the night at the Aruba Hilton, on Thursday, September 14th, we had arrived at the airport early, taking every precaution we could to make the flight.  We should not have hurried.


One of Aruba’s natives










Aruba Beach

We didn’t see much of the beach in Aruba, but more than enough of the airport!










Our plane was headed back to the gate.  A mechanical problem was the culprit.  On the intercom, the pilot reported that diagnosing and correcting the problem would probably take a couple of hours.  We were told to deplane and wait near the gate.  There really wasn’t anywhere else to wait.  The lounge we had been to near the gate before we boarded our plane was now closed, as was everything else.  At times we paced, unable to sit down.  We talked to other passengers and heard some interesting stories.  One man who was headed to Charlotte had been in Aruba for more than a week, there to attend a convention.  He was scheduled to leave Aruba the previous Sunday.  His flight had been cancelled and he and his sister who was with him had not been able to get on another flight home until that day; all the other flights were full.  He said they were fine, that their additional expenses for lodging and food were covered by his company, but that some were not so fortunate.  He told of a family with a child who was at an all-inclusive, travelling on a shoestring.  When their flight was cancelled they had to relocate to another hotel, barely able to afford that and the food they needed for the five additional days.

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Queen Beatrix International Airport, Aruba

About an hour after we deplaned, we were told that another flight was due in from Charlotte soon and that the decision had been made to send us out on that plane.  We learned that our original plane had been sitting at the airport for days, and the needed repair on it appeared to be more extensive than anticipated.  We were relieved that there was another plane option.  Or so we thought there was.


American Airlines at Queen Beatrix International Airport









The plane from Charlotte landed soon thereafter.  Knowing that “turning around” a large plane takes about forty-five minutes when we were not boarding more than an hour later, I became concerned. By this time, making our connection from Charlotte to Raleigh was questionable.  The longer we were in Aruba, the less likely it was that we would make that flight.  Given that, Mike through Skype spoke to American Airlines and changed our flight from Charlotte to Raleigh.  Since our original flight from Charlotte was the last flight out that day, we would be spending the night in Charlotte.  Or so we thought.

Another announcement was made.  Not only would we not get out of Charlotte that night, it seemed that we would not even make it out of Aruba.

Unbelievable as it was, the plane that had arrived from Charlotte, the plane that was now supposed to take us to Charlotte, also had a mechanical problem!  Unbelievable!  How likely is it that two planes in the same airport, (Aruba;) two planes of the same carrier (American;) two planes headed to the same airport (Charlotte,) would both have mechanical problems?

My mind went in several directions.  At other times with similar delays, I had been able to think and say, “I am glad that they found the mechanical problem while the plane is on the ground.”  While my logical mind knew that, my emotional self was not able to be grateful for that in that moment.  I was spent.

Quote with Lady

I know this in my soul. But knowing it did not make this experience any easier.












I began to think of what would we do if we were stranded in Aruba that night.  While we had resources the family with the child that had been stranded earlier in the week apparently did not have, how were we to know that we could even get a hotel room at the last minute?  And for how long would we need a hotel room?  How would this latest delay affect our ability to get seats on another plane from Aruba to Charlotte, and when?  The flights from Aruba to Charlotte on subsequent days might all be full!  I began to wish we were back on the cruise ship with our room and board secure with little to worry about other than how to avoid overeating.

But we weren’t on the cruise ship.  We were at the Aruba airport and had been for almost seven hours.

When would we get out of Aruba?  And what problems would we encounter until we did?


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Evacuated from St. Maarten by Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas Cruise Ship

Part Four of our Hurricane Irma in St. Maarten Experience

We had arrived at the cruise ship port only to be told by the guards that the ship was full.  This was one of my lowest points of our hurricane experience.  To be so close to being evacuated from the devastation of Hurricane Irma in St. Maarten, to be at the cruise ship gate only to be turned away.  To be told that the ship was full, and that we had to go back.  Back to where?  And, our bus was out of gas.

BUT WAIT!  Our bus driver was not to be deterred.  He called the person who had confirmed that we were to be on the ship.  She told him what to do, who to contact from the ship, and to tell that person that we were confirmed to be on the ship, that we were included in their number.  When that person came to the bus and waved us in, there were shouts of joy from all on our bus!  I can’t remember another time that I had felt such despair and such joy in the same few minutes.

We disembarked from the bus, went through security, collected our bags, and then were led to the cruise ship to board.  The walk from the bus to the cruise ship was surreal.  This was the first time that I allowed myself to believe that we were really being evacuated.

Mike & Ship

Mike getting ready to board our evacuation ship, Royal Caribbean’s  “Adventure of the Seas.” 

There was still little information.  The only thing that we were told was that once we boarded the ship to go to the ship conference room.

In the conference room, the first things I saw were snacks and soft drinks.  That was the beginning of Royal Caribbean feeding us literally and figuratively.  We were also given an information sheet.  On the information sheet was information about how to connect to the internet, and that internet was complimentary for us for the length of our stay.   This was the first time in days that we were able to connect by email, or to connect at all.  Also on the information sheet was the fact that we were given free laundry and dry cleaning for the length of our stay.  Wow! How did they know that these two things, to be connected to our families and friends and to have clean clothes, would meet two of our basic needs?  To have come from what we had left, to now being on a beautiful cruise ship cared for in such a manner was almost beyond belief.  There was still no mention of any cost that we would incur for this evacuation.  After we were checked in and given our stateroom assignments, we were then taken through a safety demonstration.  We were then able to go check into our staterooms.

Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas is a large cruise ship.  This ship of 3000 guests and 1000 crew members was on an existing cruise that rerouted through St. Maarten to pick up 300 Americans to take us to safety.  This was clearly a humanitarian effort.


Our first day on the cruise/evacuation ship.

We were finally told that there was no cost to the 300 of us being evacuated, other than if we ordered special services or special meals.  Our room and board, internet, and laundry were all complimentary.  A phone was even made available for us to use to call home, book flights, or for whatever we needed.  All of this was provided for us by Royal Caribbean at no cost.  Contrast this with those who evacuated by military plane.  We were told they had to sign a promissory note to repay the U.S. government the cost of a one-way plane ticket from St. Maarten to San Juan.

The Adventure of the Seas cruise originated in San Juan, came to St. Maarten on Sunday, September 10th, and was to return to San Juan on Saturday, September 16th.  From St. Maarten, the ship was going to Curacao, then to Aruba, Bonaire, and back to San Juan.  I had not been to any of those areas except San Juan. Those of us being evacuated were encouraged to take the entire journey, again, at no cost, although we were able to evacuate at any port from which we could get a flight home.

Mike and I wanted to be home.  Our daughter, Tara, had been in frequent contact with American Airlines trying to get us home.  Now, Mike was as well, since we had internet access.  The problem was most flights from the cruise ship ports went through Miami, and the Miami airport was still closed.  Our best option was to fly from Aruba to Charlotte and then to Raleigh.

Although we were on a cruise ship, to me it was an evacuation ship.  I was not able to enjoy it as a cruise.  The accommodations were lovely, the food was delicious, and the service was excellent.  But I still wanted to be home.  I was not able to do much more than sit and relax.  Most of the cruise ship activities were wasted on me.  I did schedule some spa services for Mike and me, as much as anything, to pass the time.

It seemed to me that those of us who had evacuated from the Royal Islander, our St. Maarten resort, were now in a special club.  There were approximately 10 couples/families of us.  While we might not ever see each other again, for this point in time, we were bonded.  I decided to ask all of those who I could find if we wanted to meet for dinner on Monday night.  Most all wanted to do so and did.  We had a wonderful time of connecting and sharing.

Resort Friends 1Resort Friends 2

Our resort friends with whom we are now bonded forever.

From that point on, we would be going in different directions, although most were taking the cruise ship all the way to San Juan.  Mike and I had decided to disembark in Aruba on Wednesday afternoon, September 13th.

Our first port was Curacao.  While Mike and I did go ashore there, we only ventured forth to the shopping area closest to the ship.  We went to a restaurant and had a snack, then returned to the ship.

Mike & Patti

Mike and I enjoying a snack in Curaçao.

The next port was Aruba, where we arrived on Wednesday morning, September 13th.  We were successful in getting a flight from Aruba to Raleigh through Charlotte, although we would have to spend the night in Aruba and fly out the next day.  Mike booked us a hotel room at the Aruba Hilton.

When we left the ship late afternoon in Aruba, I had conflicting emotions.  I was glad to be getting closer to home, yet aware that I was leaving behind people with whom we had shared a unique experience.  These were not family nor even friends, other than through this shared experience.  But we would be a part of each other’s history forever.  While there was excitement about being closer to home, there was sadness about leaving behind this time and these people.

I was also aware that we were now on our own.  For the past few days we had been cared for by Royal Caribbean, who fed us, made our beds, washed our clothes, and made sure we had connection with the outside world.  All of that would now be up to us.  I was not so sure that we were up for it.

Aruba Hilton

Our peaceful oasis in Aruba, the Aruba Hilton.

The Aruba Hilton was a lovely hotel.  After having a nice meal and a good night’s sleep, the next day we headed to the airport in plenty of time to catch our flight.

Mike ready to go

Mike at the Aruba Hilton, waiting for our transport to the airport,              to begin our journey home.

We boarded our American Airlines Flight around 4:00pm on Thursday, September 14th.  After the usual pre-boarding and boarding details, our plane was ready to take off.   We began to taxi down the runway.  But instead of ascending into air, our plane came to a screeching halt.  I wondered, did we hit another plane, although it did not feel like a collision.  Perhaps we had a flat tire?

I have flown many times, and have never had such an abrupt stop.  It was not clear what was happening.  After a few minutes that seemed like much more, the pilot came on the intercom and told us to stay seated, that we were returning to the gate.

My heart sank.


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St. Maarten Hurricane Irma Evacuation Plans

This is Part Three of Mike and my Hurricane Irma experience in St. Maarten




Our local friends, Ron and his family, leaving our resort the morning we were to be evacuated




Hurricane Irma had arrived on St. Maarten early Wednesday AM, September 6.  Four days later, Sunday, September 10, we were about to be evacuated.  Told to be downstairs by 7am to board the bus to be taken to the cruise ship that would evacuate us, we were still waiting more than eight hours later.

Our friends, Ron and his family, had left the resort when we went to the lobby at 7am.  It was a tearful goodbye.  We worried what would happen to them, when/if we would see them again, and when we would see our beautiful island alive and vibrant again.

During our long wait, we stood a lot, sat some, talked, and even ate breakfast.  The resort staff provided the breakfast, and the respite it provided nourished us as much as the food.  We were in an “on hold” mindset, waiting.  There was little information provided by anyone during this time.

There were about thirty of us at our resort all wanting to get out.  A little before noon, a Royal Caribbean cruise ship was spotted passing by our resort.  There was an immediate outbreak of applause and cheers.  Seeing a cruise ship come in was confirmation that we were really going to be evacuated.  This was the first that I knew which cruise ship was going to rescue us.

During the more than eight hours that we waited, there were several buses that came and went, but none to take us to the cruise ship.  There was a truck that loaded our luggage, and parked and waited near us.   We waited and waited.

Some asked questions about when the bus was coming (“soon”), why it wasn’t there (“it has taken some people to the airport and will be back soon”), and what time the cruise ship was to sail (“5pm”).  When 3pm came and went and still no bus, the unrest in the group was palpable.  We all knew the drive across the island to the cruise ship terminal could take us a long time given the road conditions, and we began to fear the cruise ship leaving without us.  Hope began to turn to hopelessness.  What had seemed too good to be true, being rescued soon, might actually be just that.

In addition to the cruise ship evacuation option, evacuation was also possible by military planes.  No mention was made by anyone, to my knowledge, about any cost involved with either option.  I did wonder about the cost, but did not want to make any decision based on that, so I did not verbalize the question, not even to Mike.  I remember thinking that if there was a cost, that whatever the cost was, it would be worth it.  I also remember thinking that if there was a cost involved, that we likely would have been told, since “they” would need to be sure that we were prepared to pay it.

There were some in our resort who elected to take the military planes option.  They were told they could only bring one suitcase and that it would have to be held on their lap.  There was much discussion back and forth among those waiting about which evacuation option they were electing and why.  Those who elected the military planes option left in the morning and walked the two miles to the airport.  We had no information about how they fared.

Mike and I discussed it, and decided to take the cruise ship.  Our decision making about this included the difficulty posed by the military plane option.  We did not relish repacking our belongings into one suitcase each and leaving everything else behind from two additional suitcases.  Having to walk to the airport with our two remaining pieces of luggage and holding the bags on our laps during the flight was also a factor.  And that wasn’t about leaving behind our “stuff” as much as it was the sheer energy required to elect this option.  We were told we could be waiting in line for hours outside of the airport in the heat.  I was also concerned about being able to get a hotel room in San Juan and a flight back to the U.S when there were already so many people there trying to do the same thing.   Comparing this option to being driven by bus to a cruise ship, and once on the ship, having all the details for room and board taken care of, the decision was an easy one for us; we chose the cruise ship.  And not for one minute did I think this would be a cruise that was enjoyable; it would be an evacuation ship.

When hours passed and hope was almost gone, our bus finally arrived!  We boarded the bus quickly and were soon on our way.  Once the bus started moving my fear again turned to hope.  I think we finally allowed ourselves to believe that we were going to be evacuated, and soon.  The drive to the cruise ship did not take as long as I had feared it would.



People waiting in line at our resort, waiting to be evacuated.





Soon Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas was visible, and we were almost at the gate that would be our entry to the ship that would deliver us from our nightmare.  We were soon to begin our circuitous route back to the U.S.


Our evacuation ship, Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas” came to St. Maarten to take 300 Americans to safety.



But not so fast.  The guards who came to the bus driver’s window said the ship was full.  There was no room for us.  We were told to turn around and go back.  The bus driver said he was out of gas; he could not make it back.  Now, not only would the ship not accept us, but what would we do?  The resort had released us and might not allow us to come back, if we could even get back.

This was my second lowest point of the entire Hurricane Irma experience.   My lowest point had been when the hurricane was passing over us and I truly believed that I was going to die by being ripped from our resort and thrown into the Atlantic Ocean or against our concrete building.  The fear I felt now was due to the absolute unknown of what we would be able to do now that our Royal Caribbean life boat had sunk.  I think on some subconscious level I was more worried at this point about what could happen to us before we might die.

While my mind was swirling with these thoughts and fears, our bus driver was in solution mode.  The guards and the gates did not contain him.

The rest of the story is the subject of the next blog.

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Tragedy in Las Vegas

Image result for las vegas shooting


The blog post I planned for today must wait until next week.  Safe at home away from Hurricane Irma in St. Maarten, that continuing story must take a back seat to the tragedy still unfolding in Las Vegas.  I have been unable to focus on anything else today, glued to the TV, wondering how we continue to have so many man-made tragedies.  Mike and I are both so saddened by this tragic situation.

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, and the earthquake that destroyed much of Mexico City are certainly tragedies, and need to continue to garner our attention and action.  But as devastating as they are, we have no control over them. Some may differ with this statement, bringing up global warming, but just for this moment, let’s put that argument aside, and accept that hurricanes and earthquakes are in a different category from mass killings.  As a society, we should be able to control, in fact, avoid, the senseless killings of innocent people.  When will it stop?

As in times of other crises, I have more questions than answers.   For me, this is not a political issue, but a social one.  Yes, social issues and politics are connected, but they are not one and the same.  This is not about gun control or the NRA to me, it is about a society that lets these positions divide us, while innocent people continue to be murdered.

It is also about us at the individual level.  Some turn their heads to aberrant behavior of neighbors, loved ones, and others, not wanting to deal with the conflict of confronting the behavior.  While we do not have any details yet about the motive(s)of the Las Vegas shooter, some people have had information about other shooters that they did not act upon.  It is so much easier to not get involved; until it isn’t.

What is it going to take for us individually and collectively to say, “enough is enough?”  When will we come together as a people, irrespective of politics and party, and focus on the greater good for us all?

What will it take?

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Evacuated from St. Maarten





Our Royal Islander resort, a few hours before Hurricane Irma arrived.



Part Two of Our Hurricane Irma Experience

Mike and I finally arrived home from St. Maarten on Friday, September 15th, nine days after Hurricane Irma devastated St. Maarten.  When Hurricane Irma hit St. Maarten, it was the worst hurricane recorded anywhere, and that record still stands, even with the arrival of Hurricane Maria.  Hurricane Maria hit San Juan, Puerto Rico a few days ago, and destroyed most of the city and did massive damage to other islands, and is still a force of potential danger to the U.S. Also, a 7.1 Earthquake has decimated much of Mexico City.  During this week of being safe at home, I have been unable to write, needing to process what occurred with us, and all the suffering around the world.  But write now I must, before our experience and its lessons are too far removed from recent memory to teach us its lessons.

The day after Irma hit St. Maarten as a category 5 Hurricane during the night of September 6th, and we knew we were safe, Mike and our local friend who stayed with us, Ron, decided to venture out.  They ignored the mandatory 24-hour curfew and drove what is normally a thirty-minute drive to Ron’s home to see the damage there.  They returned five hours later.  Some of the roads were almost impassable.  They found what they expected at Ron’s home.  The roof was gone, and most of the family’s belongings were destroyed.  They took what food was salvageable, and a few other items, and began the long ride back.  At this point the military had not yet arrived, and it was possible to be out without being stopped by roadblocks, but so many cars were on the road that the drive took much longer than normal.  In fact, there was nothing normal about anything at that point.





The hotel next to our resort, Sonesta, was so damaged that all guests had to be evacuated.



The next day all six of us ventured out to go to Ron’s home again to get more of their family’s belongings, as well as to see the main shopping area of Philipsburg.  By this time the military had arrived and set up roadblocks, so it was slow going to get anywhere.  Looters were all over the streets, carrying large TVs and other electronics they had stolen, and the police were apparently unable to stop them.  Looters also wiped out the grocery stores so there was no food left in them.




Front Street in downtown Philipsburg




The road to Ron’s home was now closed to traffic from our part of the island.  The main shopping area had suffered significant damage, both from Irma and from looters.  Looters had damaged or removed hurricane shutters on the doors of the shops, broken the glass, and stolen whatever they could find within.  While we did get to Ron’s jewelry store, Joe’s Jewelry, it was not possible to get in.  It was in the same condition as the others; however, the jewelry had been secured in a large safe in the back of the store.  Hopefully the jewelry would still be there when it was possible to get to it.



Mike and our 17 month old friend, Veer, on our front deck, where we spent many hours.





From Wednesday, September 6th until Sunday, September 10th, we were trying to evacuate St. Maarten.  Princess Juliana airport had suffered significant damage, and there were no commercial planes flying in or out.  Military planes did come in, delivering supplies.  Eventually those same military planes took Americans out, although there was no organized plan for doing so, and no communication of such other than word of mouth.  It was difficult to know what to believe. The people who vacated by military planes did so by walking to the airport and waiting in long lines for many hours. We were told that if we were successful in getting out by a military plane that we could only take one piece of luggage, and that it would have to sit on our lap during the flight.  The military planes were taking Americans to San Juan, where they would need to get their own lodging and flights home from there.  By the time we heard of this option, we were concerned with the number of people who had vacated to San Juan, and the potential for being unable to find a hotel room or a flight home.  We decided we were safer staying where we were, knowing our conditions there.

During these days, there was no communication on the island other than word of mouth; no phone service, no internet, no cable, and no radio for most of those days.  We had food, although it would not last more than a few days.  We also had power by generators.  We did not have running water, although some units did.  We spent our time just sitting and talking.  The time passed slowly.  I did read some, although not enough.  And I did not have any energy to write, although I could have written a book given the time available!  I think I was in a state of shock, not wanting to do anything, but wait.

There was no organized evacuation plan for several days, although the locals clearly wanted the tourists out.  One of the reasons for this is the difficulty of caring for the 6000 tourists during such extreme circumstances.  While our unit suffered minimal damage from the hurricane, other units were damaged beyond usage.  People in other resorts told of being placed in large conference rooms, sleeping on cots, without toilet facilities readily available.  The stories from others made us realize how very fortunate we were compared to many.  Our resort staff did an unbelievable and admirable job, leaving their own damaged or destroyed homes, coming to work to care for their guests.

The resort staff wanted the tourists to be evacuated, for they were concerned for our safety.  The looting in the streets had turned to violence in the resorts, with men with machetes overtaking security guards and robbing tourists.  The resort staff at our property asked us to remain in our rooms and not risk the violence that was all around us. We occasionally left our unit to visit others in our resort and to get food from the restaurant across the street that cooked and sold meals a couple of those days.  We also needed to find out what others knew about the possibility of getting out.




Fellow travelers, waiting for many hours to be picked up by the bus to be evacuated by the cruise ship.




Saturday night at approximately 11pm, three nights after Hurricane Irma hit St. Maarten, the person in charge of our resort during this time, Nina, came to our unit with an evacuation plan.  We were told to be in the lobby at 7am the next morning with all our luggage, and a bus would pick us up and take us to Philipsburg to be evacuated by a cruise ship.  There were no other details provided.  We would leave our local friends behind, and they would need to leave our resort when we did.  A friend of Ron and his family had offered them lodging, and their plan was to move in with that family until they could decide what to do next.




Mike, Someer, Patti, Muskoan, Veer, and Ron saying goodbye







Our St. Maarten family leaving the resort. We have not heard from them since.





Mike and I were in the lobby Sunday before 7am.  Eight hours later, we were still waiting for the bus to take us to the cruise ship.

The next Blog will tell the rest of the story.


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