The first sales rep to help sell my line has been with me for more than 11 years. Lulu has lived in St.Thomas for over 30 years, and we met at my very first trade show back in 2006. Click here to read the blog post to introduce Lulu, which I did a few months ago.
Now with all those years she has lived in the Caribbean, Lulu has never before sustained any damage from hurricanes. That is really quite something isn't it, but unfortunately in this hurricane season of hurricane seasons, Lulu was not so lucky. She was with me in Orlando the day Hurricane Irma wiped out St.Thomas. Despite having no news whatsoever about her island or her home, Lulu still drove down from Jacksonville, where she had been staying with friends, and helped me set up the booth. The storm was still coming towards Florida, and quite frankly we didn't know what else to do. It was an emotional time for her, (but she remained surprisingly calm, her great sense of humor kept her laughing) as she waited to hear from her house sitter, who was not in Lulu's apartment during the hurricane, but was visiting daily to check on things and feed her cats. It was 3 days before the sitter could get back to the apartment and send news out to Lulu. Here is a post of one of Lulu's rescue cats Roscoe.
Now when you look at the overall devastation in the Virgin islands, Lulu was one of the lucky ones in some respects, as her apartment is on the bottom floor of a 3 story building. The top floor was completely destroyed, and the middle floor was damaged. Every rain drop that has fallen during and after the storm is seeping down into Lulu's apartment. The hurricane shutters on the front of her condo had held, however one of them had been bouncing so hard during the storm, that it smashed the window on the inside of the shutter, so there was smashed glass, water and some debris that still got inside. 2 of her cats were still at home, but were completely freaked out. Roscoe was no where to be seen..... he re-appeared back in the condo 6 days after Irma had struck.
It took Lulu 25 days to get back home to St.Thomas. American Airlines kept booking her flights and then canceling them as they got closer. When the airport finally re-opened and she finally did make it onto a flight, AA charged her $310 for her excess luggage (3rd bag full of supplies). WOW - she was upset, but she spoke up and 5 days later was refunded.
Since Lulu has flown home, I haven't heard a lot from her. The last I heard she was still without power, and still waiting for a part for her generator to get power back into her apartment. She had no refrigeration, and her access to water was from lifting the lid on a cistern in her bedroom, lowering a bucket down inside, to lift out water.... water that was acceptable for flushing the toilet, but not water that she could drink. If you wanted to click through to her gofundme page the photos have a link direct to it.
She was mopping up water with every rain squall, and fighting mosquitos, cockroaches and mould in her apartment. You can only imagine how hot and humid it must be. When she posted this photo on Facebook she said "This makes me smile in this time of struggle"
I wanted to share this story with you, to give you a taste of how difficult life is down there. However the overwhelming message I am getting from most businesses is that the clean-up is happening fast, roofs are going back on, the lush green of the tropics is slowly returning and the water and beaches are back to their usual splendor already. Don't forget that the water still looks like this !
They need us to still come down for a vacation, take that cruise you had been thinking of, and find a way to help them back on their feet with every tourist $ spent.