Happy New Year, Irma Survivors 

Sint Maarten. This past year we felt the breath of the Earth, heavy and haunting, moaning like ancestors long forgotten. Shaking our souls and our foundations. Heaving our lives. Collapsing our dreams. We were torn by wind warmed by our Earth’s building fever.

After Irma left us, crumbled and reeling, St. Maarten’s children dealt her the final blow, our humanity a memory, like a lover’s final embrace. We dealt the coup de grace. We ended the swan’s song.

Instead of standing united we stood divided, our humanity tested, or resiliency tried. We wavered like the lonely palm on Great Bay’s crying shore. And now the masts of sailboats and the barnacled hulls of yachts pierce our sighing lagoon like tombstones. The empty carcasses of our homes roofless and battered, with windowless eyes staring at us like a scorned love.

After buildings trembled and roofs departed, as supplies lay rotting in the West Indian heat, mothers tried feeding their frenzied children, her income now a memory as distant as that dead tamarind tree. Our cries for help disappearing with the wind.

This island, the jewel of the Caribbean, our Caribbean Capital, has been brought to her knees. Brought to her knees not by wind, but by our unwavering worship of the greed that divides all of humanity. For decades we have neglected our soil and the sea that sustains us, our wetlands that define us, the hills that watch over us.  Soualiga’s children have defiled her; our acrid smoke curling in the winter wind; the landfill still filling our souls with the ignorance that carelessness breeds.

Please, Children of Soualiga, define your own histories by rising from these ashes. Be like our symbol, enduring and steadfast. Be like our National Phoenix; arise rom the rubble, the flood, the roofless spaces. Arise from the broken timber and the broken dreams. Be like our Pelican who bleeds her own bosom to feed her hungry children.

Realize that our mother is not greed or profit or power but it is our very Nature that unifies us. It is our Nature that surrounds us with the strength we need to be resilient and strong. It is our Nature which we need in order to be reborn. To be the Phoenix. The turquoise beauty of our shores, the emerald vibrations of coral, the humming green of our hills, the morning songs of our birds all a hymn to the strength of our people, of our nation, of our home and of our Caribbean identity. Realize that our power lies in the divine beauty of our Nature; in our seas and in our forests. Our ability to recover, to rebuild, to rise from our ashes, lies with cherishing and protecting the beauty that surrounds us all. Be like the July Tree and bloom despite our storms.

Then and only then, inevitably, as our Earth struggles with her fever, will we stand defiant. We will stand steadfast against the whims of Nature and Man. We will bend but we will not break. We will have seen the abyss and will be comforted by the knowledge that we swam back into the light. We will know that we have rebuilt with that very light after our deepest, darkest moment. We will have evolved into our destiny as a beacon for sustainability in the Caribbean. And we will shine our light throughout this world ,having known the worst of Nature and Man and also knowing now that we persevered. We are St. Maarten. We are strong. We are defiant. We will shine our light across continents and seas into 2018, and into the annals of history. Have a Happy New Year Irma Survivors.

Tadzio Bervoets