By Tracey Daway
The articles I have read seem to narrow in on one word, resilience. Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. Dominica, the nature Isle of the Caribbean has always been seen and spoke of as a tough country. Tough in the sense that the people and our culture are very concentrated, we are hard working and diligent and we’ve prided ourselves on numerous occasions using that narrative. This has been proven, seen and documented over the years where we have bounced back from a multitude of devastating hits, one almost more damaging than the previous.
In 1979, Dominica was roughly ambushed by David, a category four hurricane, travelling at a staggering 280 km/h there was no escape for an inch of greenery nor residency on the island. I have heard numerous stories of David from many aunts and uncles, grandparents and even my parents, who were old enough to remember that terrible day. On all accounts, it was life changing, terribly frightening and shocking. To know that it happened in 1979, where buildings now and buildings then hugely differed in structure and integrity and quantity, i can only imagine the level of devastation our people lived through with David. I cannot begin to fathom the mental and emotional aftermath that remains residual within our people after nearly four decades. David killed 40 people also garnering a whopping 1.5 billion in damages to the island overall. David has been on record, one of the most damaging hurricanes to impact our island, but look at our parents, our grandparents, aunts and uncles, our brothers and sisters, they are here. They have built lives upon the ruins and wreckage, they have raised children to leave on their legacy and they have had to start from scratch and they have continued to provide for their families. This is testament to the strong, withstanding and resiliency our nation is often praised for by islanders and outsiders alike. Therefore, it goes without saying we know we are strong, we have had time and time again to prove it we don’t ask for reminders or assurance. Pushed to our knees, we have stood in the face of adversity. As strong our people are, we are also human and where there is strength there will be weakness and vulnerability. To this day, there are families and people who still live in the aftermath and effects of the past systems that have devastated our island, psychically, financially, emotionally and mentally these people have not recovered or gotten past the trauma. To the people who have survived this with their health intact i would like to extend my apologies for us having to take on these burdens and living with them – also I would like to say thank you, for keeping that constant narrative that we as Dominicans are strong, we will not stay down.
On September 18, 2017 a thief came in the middle of the night to steal our piece of mind, for who knows how long. That night people stood helpless, trapped, as they witnessed their lives fall apart before them, literally and figuratively. Lives steeped in sacrifice and hard work and time, years, decades, all gone within a matter of hours. Mentally and emotionally people are still traumatised from that night. The morning after, the breaking dawn brought with it the ugliest shock, catastrophic, unprecedented, undocumented, never before seen damage. No one really knew how to react, confusion, disorientation, cannot accurately represent the feelings of those who survived that night. The island was in a state of mass confusion and chaos as people’s shock began to surface in numerous unhealthy ways that remained for weeks and months to come. However, I feel that this strong, tough, ‘go-get-it’ attitude that we constantly push puts immense pressure on people to rise above their human reaction to pain and loss and that is to feel. We get so caught up in praising the strength of our people but take no time to let people feel their feelings, and be weak, be hurt, grieve, process and understand what happened, learn how to cope with it and move on from it. We demonise weakness and fragility of one’s mental abilities. It’s important to know, as strong as someone may be, they have their weak points. While it may be great to praise where praise is due, but it is even greater to acknowledge and mention and speak about the events that changed our lives without mention of recover. Let people feel, let people be where they are now. The main dialogue centred around Maria was biased, where it minimised and trivialised to an extent people’s experience to an extent. Dr. Esprit’s article spoke to me, two lines that resonated deeply with me were; “There is no place greener in the Caribbean than Dominica. None. I revise that. There was no place greener in the Caribbean than Dominica…. before September 18, 2017” and, “It worries me that the trauma has already been repressed in exchange for the narrative of development.” Dealing with our trauma is essential to growth as a nation to bring us to combat climate change and climate resilience. Commitments and promises are placing undue pressure on every one of us here and I feel its too big a step to take, smaller steps will get us there and minimise the pressure, we already have our unresolved trauma to deal with as it is. We are thinking too far ahead. We have to open to be able to grow, a seed has to open to sprout.