“Don’t let the disaster that befell us get the better of us.”
It would take more than a few words to adequately describe the year which has become last year and a year we have put behind us. A year we would rather forget, but are reminded of every waking moment, because of the indelible marks it left on all our lives here in our sweet St. Maarten land.
Not only will the memories of this past year haunt us for a long time to come, the scars and wounds it left will take a long time to heal. It has been a rough year, a brutal year. But we are still here.
For some of our fellow citizens , being here still, represents a different way of life, a life where many of the things we took for granted are no longer there. A job and income being chief among what many of our people have lost or stand to loose. This is a threat to the dignity and resilience of our people.
But 2017 is behind us and with every new morning ahead, an opportunity to work on rebuilding our lives, property, relations, neighborhoods and community arises. The road to recovery will be long and bumpy, but with a focused and shared recovery plan, we will manage it step by step.
We have seen so much good, we have seen human nature at its best in the wake of a disaster of epic proportions , but we have also seen some low acts by persons, which acts were uncalled for, as dire as the situation was immediately following the hurricane. This shows that community building is a necessity for our nation.
While we will be reminded of the devastation for a long time to come, the past year and in particular some of our responses to the disaster need to serve as lessons for the future. The next hurricane season is literally around the corner.
It is great to say, we will overcome and be strong again and I have no doubt we will, but I am realistic enough to admit that it will take everything we got to do exactly that. It requires so much of everyone of us.
With the dawn of a new year, we can be hopeful for the future. If only because individually and collectively we can reinforce our resolve not to let the disaster that befell us get the better of us.
The most important thing for our country right now is an all inclusive plan. A realistic and achievable plan, a plan that takes into account the diversity of our community, our strengths, the vulnerabilities of our elderly, youth and the unemployed. The small and medium size businesses and the middle class need help to continue being the important layers in our community that they are. A plan that gives hope and makes the long recovery process bearable.
We need to manage the reconstruction properly and transparent. A full time team of professionals from the public and private sectors needs to draft the roadmap to recovery. We need to put life into the rebuilding efforts.
Convert the efforts of the national development plan and the lessons of hurricane Irma into the recovery plan for St. Maarten. We have to take charge of the recovery processes. 5 months from today, we will be facing the 2018 hurricane season. 5 months!
From the day the state of emergency was over, the recovery needed to be organized in such a way that puts the onus for the recovery back where it belongs and shows that St. Maarten is in charge. It should no longer be a fragmented approach.
We are eternally grateful for the help which poured into our country, for the volunteers and workers who labored tirelessly night and day to bring back a sense of normalcy and help those most affected.
For every kind deed to someone in need, we say thanks. To the unsung heroes, we say thank you.
Happy New Year!