Recollecting Marilyn 20 Years Later
Catastrophes are great equalizers. The worst night of my life and, in the aftermath, the most beautiful skies I have ever seen. The worst of people (looters) and the funniest stories about folks facing down looters. I learned what I can live without, but I don't ever want to live through it again.
I heard all the stories about looting on STX after Hugo and Marilyn but the only "looting" I saw first-hand on St Thomas post-Marilyn was when people were rummaging through the totally collapsed steel frame building which used to be the Grand Union supermarket. People were down there sifting through the rubble picking up whatever they could find while VIPD officers stood by - to keep order if necessary and see that nobody was hurt. Officers allowed people to grab what they could for several hours before cordoning off the whole area. There was no muss or fuss, no arguing or fighting, just nearby residents picking up stuff they could use.
I knew scores of business owners throughout the island and don't recall hearing of anyone whose business was looted. My restaurant was all ready to open and that memorable 15th was the day that WAPA was supposed to switch on the power. I had anticipated opening the place within a few days but obviously that was delayed for a couple of months. Unlike my home at the time which was a total disaster area, the restaurant was barely touched by the hurricane and all I had to do was repaint one wall which had suffered some minor water damage. It wasn't yet fully secured but, right up until the day I was finally able to open it, nobody messed with it.
The community as a whole came together and just about everybody mucked in to help where and when they could.
I remember one by one, all the radio stations being knocked off the air until only Lucky 13 (1340AM) and Addie Ottley was left.
We were lucky that Marilyn came and went, quickly.
There would have been much more devastation had it been of longer duration. It was a long time between the hours of 10PM to 5AM the next morning and the surreal views of what was left in the aftermath.
I was boarded out of my house and spent the night of Marilyn in the King's Alley Hotel with my daughter, two of her boater friends, a Labrador and two cats! Horrible night with the slider window doors bending, yes, glass bends! The 7 of us fit into the tiny bathroom for what seemed like hours.
I had to spend the next week downtown as my landlord was a pilot in the Guard and was not available to unboard my house. Never saw any looting. Marilyn blew big hole in my roof and most of my things were ruined by the time I could get back up to the house. Spent next 3 months beg borrowing and stealing a shower at friends homes. Daughter bailed back to the states after one month without utilities. We all pulled together and made it through!
I never want to go through another Marilyn but, would love a nice Wave every now and again for the rain!
After spending Hugo on a sport fishing boat in Culebra, opted for staying in my house for Marilyn. Spent the night in guest bedroom closet with boyfriend and 3 dogs, listening to the variously radio stations as one by on they dropped off the air until there was just 1340. At one point I ventured out to kitchen, watched the sliding glass door to living room bow out like a pregnant woman's belly and decided "time to head back to the closet." All night we listened to howling wind and objects hitting the house and watched the roof pumping up and down as paint flakes and cement dust fell from the walls. It sounded like a giant crab trying to rip the roof off.
Luckily had reinforced the roof with stainless steel straps imbedded into walls after Hugo.
The pressure in the house at one point was ear popping, just like gaining altitude in a plane. That was when the back door exploded
off its hinges out into the storm. That's probably what saved the roof from going as well as the strapping. My house was the only one in neighborhood that had a roof, fully in place, the next morning tho we did end up having to put a ridge cap on.
All the was left of the cottage next door was the toilet and tub on its foundation, while it's roof crashed into a neighbor's and somehow he got trapped in his bathroom, roofs were either all or partially gone from every single property in my location and the 2 story apt. across the driveway was missing the 2 top floor units. There was not a single leaf on a tree and all one could see on the hillsides were household belongings strewn as if someone had tipped all the homes over and emptied their contents. In some cases entire rooftops as well. There were mattresses across power lines and clothing strewn everywhere. There was a massive ridge beam from someone's home that landed across our road. It took 5 guys to lift it out of the way.
The following months were challenging, exhausting and stressful, to say the least. One of my dogs was never the same after Marilyn. Whenever it rained hard or we had thunder and lightening, she would attach herself to me, begin quivering and hyperventilating. Not a pretty sight. They didn't have those thunder shirts back then either.
I'm with you Rosieland!
"I never want to go through another Marilyn (nor Hugo) but, would love a nice Wave every now and again for the rain!"
Sassy would completely freak out during rain storms after Marilyn.
If I was in the shower and it began to rain hard, she'd jump in with me, at night if it rained or there was lightening she'd leap into bed and she would literally be vibrating with fear, the bed too!
It got worse as she got older. I couldn't leave her at home or she'd dig thru the door or glass windows and screens. Leave her in fenced yard, she either climb it or dig under it to get out. Made it difficult to go places but was able to take her with me most places and she'd
be perfectly behaved, unless it rained. No putting her in a kennel and tranqs didn't work. She was 5 when Marilyn hit and she had that terrible fear until she had to be put to sleep, 10 years later.