These individual testimonies constitute a collective memory, affirming our shared sense of trauma and loss, as well as our collective resilience.
This collection of stories is intended to represent a cross-section of Bahamians who experienced Hurricane Dorian—it pays particular attention to survivors who were on the Abacos and Grand Bahama when the storm hit.
Grand Bahama + Sweeting’s Cay
William Brown | Team Seagrape, Sweeting’s Cay
By all measures, William Brown is among the brightest stars in the future of a better Bahamas. As the second to youngest crew member of Team Seagrape, “Willie’s” nicknames convey the respect of even his much older, more experienced peers. Having joined the team’s effort to rebuild Sweeting’s Cay in October 2019, “Lil Cartel” is a kind of every man. He serves the project as an accounting manager, fast-learning builder, and second in command to Jimmy Smith. Hear why he chose to rebuild the homes and lives of the people of Sweeting’s Cay–and how doing so has changed his life.
Rashema Ingraham | Waterkeepers Bahamas, Freeport
Executive Director Rashema Ingraham has a message for Bahamians: water is our most precious resource. As an island nation, The Bahamas, and all those who inhabit it, have a responsibility to preserve and protect the Bahamian environment through proactive policy change, education, legal action and advocacy. Having lost her own home in Hurricane Dorian, Rashema Ingraham tells her story of personal loss and collective goodwill in the storm’s wake.
Naisha Roberts | À La Carte Bahamas Realty, Freeport
A good realtor has their finger on the pulse of the market. And Naisha Roberts says that despite Hurricane Dorian, Grand Bahama is still a great place to live, work and play. Hear how Grand Bahamians can best protect the investment in their homes as well as to take advantage of market opportunities.
Shasheena Rolle-Farquharson | ZNS Bahamas Northern Service, Freeport
Shasheena Rolle-Farquharson has nerves of steel. Even her family rarely witnesses a break in her virtually unbreakable resolve. As the co-anchor of the nightly news, she is regularly expected to cover stories–no matter how challenging their content. She, and other staff members, were tested in hurricanes past. But, the losses of Hurricane Dorian, both material and of life were unprecedented. Learn how she and co-anchors Peter Adderley and Ricardo Lightbourne navigated news reporting even as they too were a part of the unfolding story.
Sheila Johnson-Smith | Grand Bahama Children’s Home, Freeport
Retired executive director of the Grand Bahama Children’s Home Sheila Johnson-Smith was charged with the welfare of the many children in the home’s care. As Hurricane Dorian approached, the home prepared as they usually would; but the complete loss of everything “down to the studs’ was something for which they had not prepared. Learn how coordinated efforts led to the children’s rescue and year-long relocation to New Providence as well as how philanthropists, contractors and volunteers helped to restore the home and to give the children a “yellow-ribboned” return home.
Mike Stafford | Rotary Water Plant, Freeport
If you ask Rotarian Mike Stafford any question about the Rotary Water Plant, he knows the answer. As the vision of the late businessman Harold “Sonny” Waugh, the plant was commissioned after the devastating hurricanes of Frances and Jeanne in 2004 to provide potable drinking water to residents during times when severe weather impacts the local supply. As with the island’s previous storms, Rotarians activated the plant’s RO machine in advance of Hurricane Dorian. Following the storm’s destruction of the island’s water table, Rotarians gifted Grand Bahamians with water–and with hope. Mike Stafford was there for it all.
Cha Boyce | Friends of the Environment, Elbow Cay
Environmental activism runs in Cha Boyce’s family. As the Executive Director of FRIENDS of the Environment, she works to continue the organization’s mission of “Conservation through environmental education” that her father and his friends set when they founded the organization in 1988. The only Abaco-based non-profit focused on raising awareness of Abaco’s environment, FRIENDS has come a long way over the last three decades. Sitting in the classroom destroyed by Hurricane Dorian, Boyce talks about rebuilding and expanding FRIENDS after the storm, and the importance of centering the environment as Abaco looks to the future.
Everette Bootle + Boynell “Chubby” Williams | Cooper’s Town, Abaco
In September 2019, Hurricane Dorian made history. And if anyone can tell you about the history of Abaco and its people, it’s first cousins Everette Bootle and Boynell “Chubby” Williams. Afterall, the Bootles were one of the first families to settle in Northern Abaco, where 80-year old Capt. Bootle has lived his entire life. Although his younger cousin Chubby moved throughout The Bahamas, he too has become a fixture of Abaco life. Sitting on the porch of Chubby’s restaurant and bar, Talk of the Town, these two longtime Abaco residents reflect on the Abaco of their boyhood and the changes they have witnessed on the island, especially after Hurricane Dorian. The duo talk about everything from the origins of Cooper’s Town to Abaco’s boat building families, and how the effects of the storm reverberated across the entire island.
Renell Matellus | Mason + Former Resident of The Mudd, The Farm, Abaco
Renell Matellus came to The Bahamas over 20 years ago in search of better economic opportunities. Now married with children, the Haitian-born migrant is thankful for all The Bahamas has given him. But that does not mean life has been easy, especially after Dorian. After losing his home in The Mudd, Renell is one of many Abaconians struggling with the low housing stock on the island post-Dorian. With detail, he describes the scene in Marsh Harbour in the days immediately after the storm and some of the drivers of informal settlements on the island.
Troy Pritchard + Stafford Patterson | Hope Town Volunteer Fire + Rescue, Elbow Cay
When they signed up as Volunteer Firemen, neither Troy Pritchard nor Stafford Patterson ever imagined that they would have to deal with as large a scale disaster as Hurricane Dorian. In the wake of the storm, Chief Pritchard and now-Assistant Chief Patterson worked tirelessly to set up an emergency command center on Elbow Cay and facilitate evacuations from the surrounding cays. Despite the strains of the storm on their own families and resources, these men had duties to their communities. The pair discuss the emotional strain of the search, rescue and recovery on first responders and the decision-making process that happens in those first few days after disaster. Watch this interview to learn about life on the first island to be hit by Hurricane Dorian before and after the storm.
James Richard | IDEA Relief & Forest Heights Academy, Great Abaco
Just before Dorian struck, former Principal James “Jim” Richard was fully prepared for a new school year at Forest Heights Academy in Marsh Harbour. With his home destroyed and the school severely damaged, he had to change careers and islands within weeks. Having recently returned to Abaco, Richard talks about his work with IDEA Relief, the process of rebuilding his home and school, and the impact of Hurricane Dorian on his students.
Sarone Kennedy | Emergency Manager, Great Abaco Island
Staying calm in a disaster is a skill that Emergency Manager Sarone Kennedy has mastered. Having served as a shelter manager for one of the main shelters in Marsh Harbour for decades, he has weathered many storms but Dorian was unlike any other. In this interview, Kennedy describes what emotions were like inside one of Abaco’s shelters during the storm and the demands on him as the person in charge. He also talks about being split from his wife during the storm and the challenges of separating personal emotions from duty.
Leanne Russell | Visual Artist, Green Turtle Cay
As she began to rebuild her life after Dorian, Leanne Russell unlocked the long-awaited opportunity to pursue her passion for visual art full-time. Working with an archive of her maternal great grandfather’s photos that she was gifted from his time as a medical missionary in Abaco, the Green Turtle Cay native began to process the storm by overlaying photos of Hope Town, Green Turtle Cay from the Great Hurricane of 1932 with images of the island post-Dorian. The work gave her hope that Abaco had rebuilt once before and would do it again. Hope that she has since shared with the entire nation in multiple critically acclaimed art exhibitions at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas. In this emotional interview, she discusses everything from her personal experience to the role of art and archival work in the national healing process.