National Day of Reflection Message
on the first anniversary of hurricane Irma
Governor of Sint Maarten
His Excellency, drs. Eugene B. Holiday
September 6, 2018
To the people of Sint Maarten who experienced the impact of hurricane Irma,
To all who worked and continue to work to address the effects of the hurricane Irma,
My fellow Sint Maarteners,
In the foreday morning of September 6, 2017, one year ago today, Hurricane Irma the strongest Atlantic hurricane on record made landfall on our island. Some eight hours later it left, having claimed the lives of two persons on Sint Maarten, 11 lives on Saint Martin and having caused extensive damage and destruction throughout the island. While taking stock of the damage to our physical infrastructure and to our natural environment, I was saddened to see the unlawful and inexcusable looting of some. That behavior clearly did not do justice to who we are as a people; behavior that only made matters more difficult for all of us. Today however, as we reflect, let us remember and honor the many persons, the vast majority of our people, who represented our true Sint Maarten spirit. Persons who throughout our neighborhoods picked themselves up to help kickstart the response and recovery of Sint Maarten. And as we do so, let us not forget that our people did so under tensed circumstances. That is, in the face of the fact that three days after the passing of Irma we had to take cover for the threat of the passing of Hurricane Jose which thankfully did not make landfall. And thirteen days after Irma, on September 19th, we were again forced to brace for the impact of hurricane Maria.
We have experienced hurricanes before. However, no one who was on Sint Maarten during and direct after hurricane Irma will ever forget the force of her devastating winds. The emotional, social and economic impact and effects of Hurricane Irma will be felt for a long time to come. I was, and continue to be, deeply moved having seen the damage to property and heard of the heartbreaking loss of treasured goods of so many directly after the hurricane. In the one year since, I have heard of more experiences and perilous situations which persons found themselves in during the hurricane. I therefore stand with them in awe, thankful to God that they are with us today. Thus, as we reflect on this first anniversary of Hurricane Irma, my heart reaches out to those families who lost loved ones and to those who struggle to deal with the difficult memories of their experiences.
Listening to personal accounts of several persons and having seen the extent of the damage to our countries physical infrastructure, reminds me of the strength and resilience of our people. No sectors were spared. Our private and public infrastructure were severely damaged: our homes, businesses, hotels, airport, utilities and government infrastructure were affected resulting in a loss in economic activity, business revenues, taxes and employment.
In short, we were knocked down flat on our back. But as a strong and resilient people we got back up, dusted ourselves off and went to work with the support of our Kingdom partners. That is, we went to work removing and clearing trees and other debris to make roads accessible, managing shelters, controlling of check points to maintain law and order, restoring telecommunication, repairing of damaged buildings, distributing water, food and other necessities, reopening critical businesses such as supermarkets, banks and gas stations, rebuilding our homes, reopening our schools and so on and so forth. Where people work there will be differences, doubts and setbacks and yes we have had our fair share of such, but through it all our spirit of resilience always shined through. That bolstered by inspirational messages from songs such as “Starting all over again, it’s going to be rough, but we are going to make it” by our own Kenyo Baly. As a result, public life was restored to make way to work on our socio-economic recovery.
With an eye on the future, we can say that a lot has been done to date, including reaching agreement with the Netherlands to make USD.580 million available, through the World Bank, to fund the agreed upon National Recovery and Resilience Plan. At the same time, we must acknowledge that there is still much, so much more to be done. In that respect, we are to remember our brothers and sisters who are still without a home or job, lost during the hurricane. Let us, government, businesses and individuals, therefore in our reflections, continue to embrace our obligation one to another. That is to continue to do everything necessary to ensure that we make it and that no one gets left behind.
While we still have a long way to go, today’s reflection on the first anniversary of Irma will not be complete without a word of gratefulness and appreciation for our progress thus far. Gratefulness to the many persons who, having suffered damage to their property themselves and left their own families behind, came or continue to come out under difficult circumstances to make progress possible. Persons, such as, the members of the disaster management team and their support staff, firefighters, medical professionals, law enforcement officers, technicians and business-owners and their employees as well as many volunteers and local and international organizations such as the Red Cross, CORDAID, USAID, ADRA and Samaritan’s Purse. Gratefulness to our Kingdom partners, the Netherlands, Aruba and Curacao, who through the deployment of military officers and police officers have made invaluable contributions to the response and recovery efforts. And appreciation for the financial support made available by Netherlands for the recovery plans. To all who contributed and continue to do so, I say thank you for your service to the people of Sint Maarten.
As we reflect on Hurricane Irma and work to rebuild and recover we ought to keep in our thoughts our brothers and sisters on the Northern side of the island as well as those of Saba and Sint Eustatius. We wish them strength as they too seek to rebuild and recover.
Going forward we ought to remind each other that we will need everyone to join in to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure one day at a time. Today, tomorrow and each day thereafter we must, and I am convinced that we will, continue to take steps to complete the cleanup, reconstruct our airport terminal, rebuild our homes, reconstruct our hotels and restaurants and ultimately secure the recovery of our economy. As we face this challenge we can do so with the knowledge and resolve that we have been down difficult paths before and we overcame. I therefore believe that we will continue to progress and rebound stronger together again. This through concerted national action in collaboration with Kingdom and international partners. And for that I am, as always, counting on my trust in the boundless strength and resilience of We the People of Sint Maarten”. May we therefore, with love for our country, encourage, build, support and lift each other up and thus our country with the help of God.
Thank you, God bless you and may God bless Sint Maarten and protect its coast.