Tropical Storm Erika

Tomorrow, it will be two weeks since Tropical Storm Erika struck Dominica. It was unexpected. We even laughed about how my name Erica only varies by one letter. I may not have been born here in this island, but it struck a chord.(I have been a citizen since 1997, when I was 16. We arrived here in 1995 although I had been living in the Philippines from 2002 to earlier this year, with summer visits to the island.) It was a joke, but it ended up being anything but. It was a tragedy.

With only about 70,000 people here, there was no doubt that someone one resident knows had been affected badly. People had died. For a bigger country, the casualties and destruction may not have been much. But this is a small island, with only a few people. I understand, even if I do originally come from a perpetually typhoon-battered country, the Philippines. In the Philippines, hundreds of thousands of people are usually uprooted after a terrible storm. Fewer and fewer lives are lost, however, because devastation is expected every year.

You don’t really know what life is in store for you no matter how much you plan. The same goes here in laid-back Dominica. Conscientious people could easily suffer together with those who haven’t got a care in the world. I knew some people who had been paying their mortgages and working through life responsibly, and then the storm struck. Some villages had to be permanently abandoned to prioritize safety. It was an understandable decision. Yet, I could not help but feel sorry for those who would be forced to live elsewhere – to leave everything that they used to have amidst the rubble and loved ones who died under the mud and waters.

Nearly two weeks after, electricity and water had not been back to some areas. Water came sporadically. You have to learn how to live the way people lived before water was made to flow through pipes. I was used to two showers a day, after I woke up and before I slept. Now, a bucket of water per day must be conserved. Each grab of the dipper had become precious. Dripping water from skin is reserved for flushing the toilets. Water is life. Water is precious. Yet, we had never really respected its value.

Hopefully, in a few days’ time, water will flow continuously. Today, however, I am just thankful that there are barrels waiting for me at home. Some people live in darkness. Their lines may not be back for weeks. They do not have water at all, except for those delivered by the government as rations. Some have even lost their lives. My family is lucky. Though water is precious, lives are even more precious.